Cuts at seniors care home lead to end of dementia wing, ‘bedlam’

Despite very serious concerns about short-staffing in seniors care, the Sask. Party is still cutting – this time, resulting in a specialized dementia unit being shut down, and a seniors care home falling into chaos.

“The staff here are wonderful, but they went and shorted us here in May of this year – shorted our staff. And when they shorted the staff, that’s why they had to open the north doors, where the dementia people are. That’s their home,” said Jim Lawrence, a resident of Ross Payant care home in Assiniboia, near Moose Jaw.

“Now they’ve got such a small staff on at night that it’s hard to get any help if you need it,” said Don Reid, a resident at Ross Payant.

NDP Leader Cam Broten, who raised the seniors care cut in question period on Wednesday, said the Sask. Party has broken their hollow promise to take seniors care seriously.

“I can’t imagine how Mr. Wall can possibly justify making cuts to seniors care now,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “We’ve heard from so many sons and daughters about the real consequences of low-staffing levels. I think of Margaret Warholm’s family describing Margaret’s heartbreaking premature death – malnourished, dehydrated and with open bedsores from neglect. I think of Lois Rein’s daughters describing Lois on the floor of her room, waiting for hours for help to come. I think of the cases of dangerous or even deadly unsupervised wandering by seniors living with dementia.

“I can’t imagine, after all that, how Mr. Wall can possibly justify cutting the staff at Ross Payant, and shutting down the specialized dementia unit.”

Lawrence and his neighbours at Ross Payant said after the cut – which took place in May – staff levels are low, and residents with dementia wander the facility unsupervised, usually  confused, and sometimes aggressive.

“If we could just get our staff back up to par again, like it was before May – May 17 was when they done all the changes – but they let them out of the north side on October the fifth, and that was then the bedlam really started,” said Lawrence.

The May 17 cut came literally days after Saskatchewan’s provincial ombudsman released a damning report on seniors care, sparked by and focused on Warholm’s death.

The report backed up the content of two years of reports from health region CEOs. In fact, the 2014 CEO report on Ross Payant specifically noted that the government-run seniors care home already had concerns about staffing levels. It also mentioned the toxic John Black Lean program.

Another resident, Mabel Wasalenko, wrote in the local newspaper: “Now with all these changes it has disturbed my rest, my peace, my joy.”

While both Lawrence and Reid describe the dangers of residents with dementia running into frail residents, and aimless, unsupervised wandering, neither blame those coping with dementia. They blame the staff cuts for their unhappy and unsafe home.

“I told the head lady here one day, I said, ‘I didn’t come here to be abused or pushed around.’ I said, ‘I’ve never allowed anybody to push me around my whole life,’ and I said, ‘no, I don’t want to start now, not at my age. I’m 85 years old, I don’t know how much longer I’ve got, but I want to live in peace! We’re paying good money. It’s our money that’s keeping the place going. But it’s the shortage of money that they say is causing the whole problem,” said Lawrence.

Broten and the Opposition New Democrats have introduced The Residents in Care Bill of Rights Act – a law that would put minimum care standards back in seniors care homes, and require the government to set minimum staffing ratios in care homes.

The Sask. Party eliminated standards of care and adequate staffing laws in 2011.