Resident’s death renews calls for debate of nursing home challenges
Violent attacks in retirement residences, like the one that left a 72-year-old Toronto woman dead Thursday, are not unusual and need to be discussed if solutions are going to be found, say advocates for the elderly.
Wexford Retirement Home resident, Joycelyn Dickson, died Thursday after an alleged attack by a fellow resident. A 92-year-old woman was left with injuries to her face but is expected to recover.
Another resident at the home, Peter Brooks, also 72, has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He is currently in police custody and is scheduled for another court appearance April 4.
It's not yet known what connection the three residents had to one another or whether dementia played a role in the attack.
Fellow residents at the home and their family members are now raising concerns over security in the building. Matthias Jetleb, whose mother lives on the building’s fifth floor, says he’s concerned about the level of staffing at the home.
“And I’m concerned that this may have been something that highlights that, because really, I have to ask how two people could be assaulted without someone stepping in?” Jetleb wondered in an interview with CTV Toronto.
CTV News contacted Wexford to find out how many staff members were working in the area where the attack took place, but officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing police investigation.
Front-line personal support workers are renewing their appeal to Ontario's health minister for increased care and staffing levels in nursing homes through legislation. They also want to see better training for staff, protocols to deal with violent residents, and improved enforcement of compliance orders issued by the health ministry against nursing home operators.
"We want assurances from the health minister that she will be taking immediate steps to prevent similar deaths, by making all seniors residences safer through a legislated care standard that will ensure increased staffing levels," Candace Rennick, the secretary-treasurer of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario and a former worker at a long-term care facility.
CUPE members who work in the sector say that often there is only one PSW to 24-30 patients per floor on overnight, and one registered nurse for every three floors.
"This is not defendable health policy. Ontario is not providing a level of care that is safe, adequate or dignified," Rennick said in a statement.
Rennick also called on the health minister to enforce compliance orders against Wexford Residences.
It says the ministry of health website shows that compliance orders that have been issued for Wexford Residence include: failure to follow up on complaints from families, unsafe resident transfers (which are usually indicative of understaffing), and failure to provide individual care plans for each resident.
Theresa Piccolo, whose husband was attacked by another resident at his nursing home in February, 2012, thinks a shortage of staffing contributed to the attack her husband endured.
“There just are not enough PSWs (personal support workers) to supervise,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.
“When there's somebody on the floor who can erupt in violence at any time, you're going to need to have in place some kind of procedure so that someone can go and sit with that person till the violent episode has passed. And they don't have that,” she said.
A recent investigation by CTV’s W5 into resident-on-resident abuse in long-term care homes found more than 10,000 violent “incidents” are reported in care homes across Canada each year. These incidents include everything from verbal threats, to pushing, slapping, punching, choking, sexual assaults and homicide.
Lynn McDonald, the director the University of Toronto’s Institute for Life Course and Aging, says the issue of resident-to-resident abuse in nursing and retirement homes is little studied in Canada.
It also seems it has not been discussed much either in any public way.
“No one has ever been interested until the last couple of years,” she told Canada AM.
“I think we have to start telling the numbers, which are appalling. I mean it's your mother, it’s my husband, it's my grandmother, it’s our family, and it will be us one day. So you would think Canadians would have an interest in talking about this.”
The Ontario Ministry of Health says it is now investigating the incident at Wexford.