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Allan J Gold
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Elderly Safety in Long Term Care Centers-We can do better!

Concerned about elderly safety in senior residences or in nursing homes? Concerned about patient safety in long-term care centers? Concerned about the quality of life for elderly? Concerned about the care team at assisted living facilities and the impact on older adults of overworked caregivers and their mistakes? If so, look here!

Vol. 11, #15 – Nov. 11, 2019–ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG

RE: ELDERLY SAFETY – 500 MILLION REASONS WHY QUEBEC’S SENIOR RESIDENCES, NURSING HOMES AND LONG-TERM CARE HOMES NEED TO DO BETTER!!!!

  1. OPENING.

If a senior or his/her spouse, adult child, caregiver, I’m sure you’re concerned about elderly safety in senior residences or nursing homes? The same goes for patient safety in long-term care centers. I’m also certain that you’re concerned about the quality of life for elderly. And you worry about the care team at assisted living facilities and the impact on older adults from overworked caregivers and their mistakes. So consider if you will, Quebec’s residential and long-term care centers also known as the long-term care homes. The basic purpose of these facilities is to be a home for these people and also the place where they’ll receive the services, which they require. In essence, these are assisted-living residential centers/homes where people receive care on a long-term basis. Many residents in these beds are elderly, requiring personal care. Typically, these patients also have needs arising from their particular malady and/or condition.

When it comes to my expectations about these centers, I would describe them in terms of the following words, “sanctuary,” “refuge,” and “oasis.” Here’s why. The word, “sanctuary” is defined as “a place of refuge and protection.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanctuary) And a “refuge” is defined as “a place that provides shelter or protection.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refuge) In addition, the word, “oasis” means “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oasis) In a fashion, I also see these homes as being somewhat comparable to a gated community, which is “…a group of houses, surrounded by fences or walls, that can only be entered by the people who live there: The neighbourhood is a gated community with a security guard to protect residents from intruders…” (Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/gated-community)

However, I submit that everything isn’t what it should be, in Quebec’s senior residences, nursing homes and long -term care homes. Indeed, I don’t see them as meeting my said expectations. I’m prompted in making this statement, this in part due to the news on following case.

B. THE CASE: Conseil pour la protection des malades (Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients) et al –vs-CISSS de la Montérégie Centre et al SCM 500-06-000933-180

On the 23rd day of September 2019, it was reported that Mr. Justice Donald Bisson, a Quebec Superior Court judge, had rendered a judgment, authorizing a class action lawsuit against CISSS de la Montérégie Centre et al. In other words, we’re speaking about the government of Quebec and the subject is its network of Centres d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLDs). Attorney Philippe-Antoine Larochelle (LAROCHELLE AVOCATS) is acting for plaintiff. This was a suit that arose in July 2018 through the efforts of Conseil pour la protection des malades (Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients). The lawsuit alleges systemic neglect and mistreatment of patients (residents) in the CHSLDs – indeed, it calls it “shameful” treatment. There are degrading and deteriorating living conditions. Twenty plus cited examples are given. The lead plaintiff in the class action suit is Daniel Pilote, 57. Suffering from muscular dystrophy, except for some movement of his head, he is paralyzed and dependent on a breathing apparatus to stay alive. He has lived in a CHSLD in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu for four years. His stated aim in going to court is to improve living conditions in long-term care homes and to obtain justice for people including himself. He states:

  • That staffing is an issue. His attendants are apparently overworked in part due to his CHSLD having an absenteeism rate of 20%. At night, there is sometimes only one nurse for 111 residents, some of whom have complex medical conditions, requiring more care on a regular basis. And such has a negative impact on the quality of care that he would receive.
  • That he does not receive, according to him, the level of care necessary for his specific condition. He asserts that his inert body is handled too quickly and inappropriately, for example, “by placing it too quickly in his wheelchair and hitting him.”
  • That he says that he lives in a constant state of anxiety as he’s regularly the victim of medical errors – as for example, since his medication is often poorly managed or when inexperienced staff doesn’t know what to do with his breathing equipment in the event of an emergency.
  • That he complains that the mucus, which accumulates in his trachea, is not aspirated in a timely manner; and this hampers his breathing.
  • That there is only one bath offered per week;
  • That residents must comply with the early morning schedule of the center;
  • That laundry services are not free;
  • That meals are of poor quality and the time allowed to eat is much too limited;
  • That residents must often suffer a long time in their soiled diapers; etc.

Plaintiff through this action is seeking compensatory damages of $250 to $750 per resident, as well as exemplary damages of $100 per person for each month spent in a CHSLD. The class action could affect 34,000 people in long-term care in the province since July 9, 2015; and as such, the total compensation, if it should succeed, could reach the $500 million range.

It’s noteworthy that the defence pleaded that plaintiff ’s argument on the subject of « milieu de vie » was difficult to define. But such pleading was not accepted by the judge. Indeed, the judge wrote, « Les demandeurs agissent de bonne foi dans le seul but d’obtenir justice pour eux-mêmes et pour les membres de leur groupe. » And he, in effect, stated that « Les questions du milieu de vie et de la « qualité adéquate des soins » sont identiques et méritent d’être poursuivies devant les tribunaux. »

This approval means that the class action suit can proceed, but it could take several more years for the case to come to resolution.

C. CLOSING.

While Plaintiff’s allegations have not been proven as of yet, I still assert that we should take immediate heed of this suit. Of course, we’ve all heard the often used quote, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” It’s likely that as you’re reading this blog, there are patient-residents, who are complaining about the quality of care and services being rendered; and it’s probable that their wishes and needs are not now being met to their entire satisfaction. While I aim that these institutions meet my expectation of providing adequate refuge, shelter, protection, relief, pleasantness and security from others, I worry that these people are at a higher than average risk. Of course, I have zero tolerance for anyone suffering, especially when it’s avoidable.

So I ask you again the above questions. Concerned about elderly safety in senior residences or in nursing homes? Concerned about patient safety in long-term care centers? Concerned about the quality of life for elderly? Concerned about the care team at assisted living facilities and the impact on older adults of overworked caregivers and their mistakes? If so, perhaps after reading this blog, you’re no longer as complacent as before. That’s a good thing. You see, when it comes to the elderly, and while everyone in society has a part to play, seniors and their family members are the eyes and ears of all of us on the ground, at the front lines.

Indeed, the title of this blog bears repeating: “Re: Elderly Safety – 500 million reasons why Quebec’s senior residences, nursing homes and long-term care homes need to do better.” But you only have one reason – the well-being of you or your loved one!

D. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE ELDER LAW BLOG SERIES. I believe that with this blog series on elder law, I may have started you along the way to being more aware of elder law. But moving right along, I wonder if you’re doing any retirement planning. You see, I recently received an e-mail announcement from “Investment Executive,” stating, “The next decade will see a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth.” It then asks the provocative question, “Are you ready for the largest wealth transfer ever?” The article was addressed to executives and advisors in the financial world. It got me to thinking and prompted to write a blog in this regard. Picking up this thread, I would like to ask my readers the same question. If a senior intent on getting his/her affairs in order, this is for you. Or if an adult child, wanting to be a successful heir, it’s also for you. Interested? Want to get more information about the current topic, retirement planning, or other areas of elder law written by an “avocat,” one of the family law lawyers, family lawyers Montreal, practicing in the elder law field? See you next time. It won’t take too much time. Remember my byline – it’s “Gold’s Legal Minute*GLM*!” And don’t forget to join my professional community by entering your e-mail at the prompt. *

G. NOTICE – CAUTION –DISCLAIMER

The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.

*©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

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