A woman living in a long-term care home in Ontario, which houses 200 seniors including the premier’s mother-in-law, has confirmed what loved ones of residents fear most: basic care needs are not being met amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s a crisis here. It’s terrible,” said a resident from West Park Long-Term Care home in Toronto. “People are in their wet clothes since last night … I’ve never … ever seen it like this so bad.”
CBC has agreed not to identify the resident because she fears retaliation from an already overstretched and overworked staff.
As deaths in long-term care homes across the country mount, family members have told CBC they worry not just about the deadly virus, but about the care. They feel left in the dark, and helpless being unable to visit or help with their loved ones’ care.
The West Park Long-Term Care home, managed by Extendicare, has seen at least five COVID-19 deaths. Ten other residents and 14 staff members have tested positive with the virus. It is also home to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s mother-in-law. Ford spoke out about his own concerns on Monday.
“It breaks my heart watching [my wife] Karla stand outside the window in tears,” he said. “And there’s thousands of families in the same position, wishing they could jump in there and help their loved one in there.”
‘We’re being neglected’
According to the resident, workers at the home could use all the help they can get.
“I screamed for an hour and a half for help last night. Nobody came,” she said. “There’s one nurse that does two whole floors [and] 120 residents … how are you going to take care [of] meds for 120?”
The source said during the day there can be as few as one personal support worker (PSW) taking care of 20 residents, and one nurse for as many as 40. She said they usually have triple that amount or more.
She said this poses a challenge at meal times; although she’s able to feed herself, many others need someone to feed them individually, which can take hours.
“We’re being neglected here.”
The resident said that since she has cognitive awareness, she is at least able to communicate that she needs help. But she feels guilty knowing those with cognitive impairments like dementia may be less of a priority.
“I [feel] so guilty,” she said. “I need help, too, but other people need it just as much — even worse … It breaks my heart because they’re just totally helpless.”
Company says it’s ‘going to extraordinary lengths’
Matt Lamb, the executive director of West Park Long-Term Care home said they will now be testing everyone in the home for COVID-19, so the number of positive cases will likely rise in the coming days.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of these residents,” Lamb told CBC in a statement. “Regrettably, we anticipate that we may experience more loss before the pandemic is over.”
Lamb said that West Park is taking all necessary infection control measures to limit the spread of the virus and that they have brought in extra staff to address resident needs.
“Our staff at West Park Long-Term Care Centre, with the support of our colleagues at Extendicare Assist, have been going to extraordinary lengths to continue to provide quality care for our residents under difficult circumstances.”
West Park is managed by Extendicare, one of Canada’s biggest long-term care home chains. According to their website, Extendicare owns and manages at least 118 homes across nearly every province.
The resident living in the home said she thinks management could do better. She wants to see more help for the staff who she said are “working really hard” and “can’t keep up.”
“Extendicare, they’ve got the money,” she said. “Hire a dozen more workers, at least until this outbreak is over.
“I’m not going to buy any excuse from them whatsoever.”