‘It just gets worse’: Resident, families, former staff voice care concerns at Ontario nursing home

‘It just gets worse’: Resident, families, former staff voice care concerns at Ontario nursing home
Families, former staff members and a resident of the Park Lane Terrace long-term care home are speaking out about conditions at the small town Ontario home, desperate for increased staffing levels and better care.

“Nothing changes for the better. It just gets worse, day in and day out,” said resident Peter Albers.

Albers, 66, has multiple sclerosis and difficultly speaking. He also has diabetes, and ended up at the Paris, Ont. home after his right leg was amputated. He’s one of few residents there who is fully mentally cognizant.

He says understaffing meant he once went without a bath for 30 days.

Some of those days were because he refused to be cared for by a “stranger” — a rotating, agency-sent staff member instead of one of the regular personal support workers (PSWs) who know him.

Albers says after a wheelchair collision between him and a resident with dementia, management threatened to take away his power wheelchair — key to his independence. For him, the quality of care and life is so bad, he’s looked into the possibility of medically-assisted death.

“I don’t want to really live anymore,” said Albers.

His sister Mary Huurman, sitting beside Albers in an interview, choked up as she explained her brother isn’t a candidate for assisted death, nor would she want him to be, but she understands why he feels that way.

Peter Albers lives at Park Lane Terrace. He and his sister Mary Huurman share their concerns about care with Abigail Bimman.

Albers has had three heart attacks since he came to Park Lane, which he attributes to the stressful living situation.

“If he has a fourth one it would likely be the last,” said Huurman. “For the life that remains for him, I would like him to have assurance there would be care when he needs it.”

“It’s a true travesty to treat people the way Park Lane treats them,” said John Vice, whose mother-in-law lives at the Paris, Ont. facility.

“These are human beings that we are talking about. The most vulnerable human beings in our society.”

Vice’s mother-in-law has lived at Park Lane for nearly three years, and he says there’s been an issue with her care on a near-monthly basis.

“Probably the most disturbing was my wife arriving to see her mom and finding her soaking wet in her own urine,” says Vice. With a diaper so full, urine was “flooding down her knees,” and Vice wonders how long she had been left like that.

In a 172-page report, the ministry slams Park Lane over and over for a long list of mistakes, everything from how it handled alleged sexual, verbal and physical abuse to understaffing, medication errors, missed baths and incontinence issues.

Ministry spokesperson David Jensen would not answer whether there was a correlation between the Global interview request and the removal of the report, but said it was “temporarily removed from the public website for amendments.”

Park Lane is owned by APANS Health Services, and CEO Mary Raithby declined requests for an on-camera interview.

“Resident care, resident safety and resident well-being have always been and will always be our first priority. Our staff members provide amazing high-quality and compassionate care to our residents, often in very difficult and demanding situations,” reads part of the response.

Raithby says she cannot comment on specific concerns “due to privacy, confidentiality and/or labour relations considerations.” She says they are in the process of “increasing nursing staff” this week, even though the government has not confirmed their 2019 funding levels yet.

“We are committed to quality care and services for our residents and we are fully engaged in our identified opportunities for improvement.”

For PSW Jessa Grosvold, working conditions at Park Lane became so “stressful” and “toxic,” she left a job she once loved in October 2018, after 11 years.

“We loved those residents. We wanted to try and do our best. But you physically couldn’t help them with the five or 10 minutes you got with them,” said Grosvold.

“You’re a number in a bed. You’re not a person. You’re not somebody’s mom or somebody’s dad or somebody’s grandma. You’re just ‘room 482’ and that’s how [management] sees things and that’s what makes the problem,” said Grosvold.

“You’re running and running and running,” she said of the pace.

Miranda Ferrier of the Ontario Personal Support Worker Association says that kind of pace is common at homes across the province. She’s long been pushing for a 1:8 PSW-to-resident ratio.

“That would mean the PSW would have more time with each resident, more quality of care, and the burnout rate would not be as high as it is today,” she said.

And while understaffing is a problem across the province, she is very concerned about what the ministry found at Park Lane.

The ministry report cites Park Lane for having non-PSW staff who put on scrubs and told the inspectors “they were acting as a PSW today.” Duties included lifting and transferring residents.

Ferrier says operating mechanical lifts without training is dangerous to both residents and staff. But she says with chronic understaffing across the province, it’s happening more often.

“They will pull dietary out of the kitchen, they’ll pull housekeepers off the floor and they’ll ask them to assist the PSWs with their duties. Why is it wrong? Well, frankly it’s illegal, really. And secondly, it really puts the residents in harm’s way. The liability is through the roof,” Ferrier said.

She calls it illegal because in Ontario, you need to have graduated from a PSW program in order to work as one.

As health care is a provincial responsibility, standards and requirements vary from province to province. But nowhere in Canada is there a mandatory minimum staffing ratio for PSWs.

Some provinces, such as Alberta and Manitoba, have a set number of hours of care per resident per day (3.6 in Manitoba, for example), which include a mix of nursing and PSW staff.

Quebec is in the middle of a series of pilot projects, due to wrap up this summer, looking at ratios.

For the families at Park Lane, they just want better care.

“We need to be the voice for everybody in there,” said Trish Birrell, whose mother Patricia has lived at Park Lane for nearly four years. She says many of the residents aren’t able to advocate for themselves, and some residents and their families are too afraid to speak out.

“I see who doesn’t have visitors. Who speaks for them? Who talks for these people? It’s terrible.”
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