July 20th, 2024

Family alarmed about safety of mother in care home

By Lethbridge Herald on April 25, 2024.

Covenant Health says it's investigating incidents at Buffalo Grace Manor in West Lethbridge in which video camera footage shows a man entering the room of a female resident and engaging in physical altercations. Daughters of the female resident say the camera has caught the man entering their mom's room on three occasions - including once this week - and they are concerned about her safety. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Covenant Health is investigating after a camera in a room at Buffalo Grace Manor in Lethbridge showed a female resident in the demential ward on several occasions engaging in physical conflict with a male who entered her room.

“We’ve been made aware of a video recording of an incident that occurred at Buffalo Grace Manor in Lethbridge. We have taken swift action to launch an internal investigation to review our current safety protocols. As part of our investigation, we will review the incident to determine what occurred and how we can prevent similar situations from happening in the future,” said Covenant in a statement to The Herald.

“The safety and well-being of our residents is our top priority, and we strive to learn and improve from any incidents that occur at our facilities.”

The latest incident was captured on camera Monday after other incidents which alarmed the family of a woman there on April 11 and 18th.

On Monday night, the day a television news station did a story on the matter, a video camera that was installed in the room of an elderly dementia patient caught the male entering her room for the third time.

Lynn Doratty said Wednesday her non-verbal mother gets up several times a night to go the nursing station, unlocking her door and leaving it open. The man who was seen on camera engaged in physical altercations with her follows the woman, she said. While doors are locked on the outside in the dementia ward, residents can open them from inside she said.

An emergency meeting was held by Doratty and sister Suzie Roennecke with management on Tuesday after the latest episode and Doratty said in a phone interview she asked “how the hell does this happen three times? What is wrong with you people?”

Doratty said the situation is due to Buffalo Grace management failing to make sure residents are safe. She believes security cameras need to be installed in facility hallways so staff can monitor residents’ movements.

“This is not a matter of my mom having a poopy diaper. This is serious. Somebody is going to get killed,” said Doratty.

Doratty and Roennecke’s mom moved into the assisted living facility in early 2023 and they are moving her out of the facility in light of problems they say exist at Buffalo Grace Manor.

Those issues include a lack of adequate staffing at the facility, Roennecke said in a recent interview.

And while they don’t blame the staff for the situation, they do feel management of the facility has failed to ensure their mother’s safety.

“They just don’t have enough time to do everything they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to two-hour checks on every single patient all night. They don’t have enough staff to do that,” Roenneke said.

“It’s ridiculous.”

 Roennecke said there are only two care aides to attend to a 17-room dementia unit and a second 17-room unit at night, adding the government needs to provide more nursing staff for care homes in the province.

“It’s just not enough,” said Roennecke.

Two incidents were recorded earlier this month on the camera – the first on April 11 and the second on April 18 when a man who is new to the facility – according to Roennecke –  was seen sitting on the woman’s bed before getting up to punch and kick her.

The family notified but Lethbridge Police Services but haven’t laid charges.

Leading up to the April 11 episode, the man had been in the woman’s room several times, taking her out of bed and climbing into it himself and then helping himself to whatever he wanted in the room, said Roennecke.

“I think my mom was just getting extremely frustrated that he kept hanging out there and so on the 11th I got a call in the early evening that there was an incident with my mom and I needed to call the LPN on the second floor,” recalled Roennecke who learned there had been an incident in which her mom attacked the man and she did nothing to provoke him.

The video camera was installed because of other matters and Roennecke saw on the video that on the afternoon of the 11th the man had slapped and punched her mom. Roennecke believes staff saw her mom try to push the man out of the room.

She called staff and told them what the video showed in the room. 

The man was in the room again several times and staff were notified, she said. Then on April 18 at 7:15 a.m. the camera showed the woman sitting on a chair and the man on her bed. 

Roennecke said when the man got up, her mom grabbed him by the shirt and he leaned over slapping her several times and put his knee into her stomach. She said her mom was trying to push away the man who had gotten hold of her wrist and he sat down in the chair, pulling her onto the bed. Her mom finally got free of his arm after striking him.

Roennecke feels staff should have intervened after the first incident but says nothing had been done so she reported it and then called the police.

She said the family hopes something will come of the Covenant investigation.

“There comes a time where you have to take care of the elderly. You see stories like this all the time and I don’t want this swept under the rug,” she said.

Everyone on the floor has dementia, said Roennecke, adding that a security guard had as of last weekend been hired to watch the man 24 hours a day. But that security was no longer in place on Monday, Doratty said.

Roennecke said she believes her mom isn’t the only person the man has put his hands on at the facility.

The videos, she said, are hard to watch.

“Seeing a loved one being hit like that is not something you want to see,” said Roennecke, adding the family is going to fight to see changes are made.

“The government needs to step up” and provide the facility with more staff.

“There needs to be some changes,” she said. 

“It is just totally inappropriate for what’s going on there.”

In its statement, Covenant Health said “Buffalo Grace Manor is committed to maintaining a safe and supportive environment for our residents. We are fully cooperating with authorities, the residents, and their families. We  wish to extend a sincere apology and deepest sympathies for the distress and discomfort this has caused to the individuals involved and their families.”

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Southern Albertan

Again, the incidence of aggressive, violent dementia patients is on the rise. Where these folks are placed is ever more pertinent. They just cannot be placed among other fragile co-residents. The need for units with a smaller patient to staff ratio with a more skilled staffing mix has been put forward for years. Suggestions have been made in the past for staff in long term care facilities to have (H.A.R.T.) Healthcare Aggression Response Training, but may still, be falling on deaf ears. It appears it’s all about money, smaller units with a more skilled staffing mix with better training would cost more money. “Apologies and sympathy” are not enough.
Also, staff have to be able to deal with these situations effectively with the proper defense training, and with witnesses (more staff), so that they are not charged with abuse. Safety for the staff is also key. Many frontline health care staff have been severely injured from physical altercations by aggressive and violent dementia patients. The staff should also, not be blamed for “not having the right approach.”
Again, this could be avoided with a smaller patient to staff ratio and a more skilled, trained staffing mix.
Perhaps, not only should the police be notified, but consultation with a lawyer. It needs to be assumed now, that families, are placing observation and audio equipment discreetly in their loved one’s rooms in long term care now. Imagine…what has it come to?!

Last edited 2 months ago by Southern Albertan