BC Family Talks About Dangerous Caregiver Neglect Pi News

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Warning: This story contains disturbing content

Regina Cameron recalls the shock of seeing her 71-year-old cousin Jeanette at Kamloops, PC Hospital three years ago, who she called “an advanced neglect condition”.

“Looking at her condition was absolutely devastating, knowing how she suffered during that period,” Cameron said. “You would not expect to see anyone like that in this country, let alone the care of a vulnerable person.”

For 13 years until that day, Jeanette had lived in her home with a caretaker named Don Brush. CTV is not using the disabled man’s last name at the request of his family.

Caretaker pleads guilty

Last year, Jan. Brush pleaded guilty to failing to provide Jeanette with the necessities of life from May 1, 2017, to May 6, 2019, and was sentenced in April to 18 months in prison.

Brush contracted with Thompson Community Services (TCS), whose staff made home visits to ensure proper care, including in the days before Jeanette went to the hospital.

The judge’s judgment stated that on May 2, 2019, the TCS manager and the lawyer visited the house. The manager noted that the senior was thin, but covered in a blanket and hat. She thought Jeanette’s bathroom and bedroom were clean and noticed the smell of urine in the house, which the prosecutor also noticed.

In addition, medical records showing Brush’s initials indicate that Jeanette received her medication daily. In her ruling, Supreme Court Judge Sherry Ann Donegan acknowledged that Brush had not filled out any of the senior’s prescriptions since July 2017 and had not been taken to a doctor for more than two years.

Dangerous neglect

Judge Donegan said Janet would have died of malnutrition without intervention.

He was also admitted to the hospital weighing 72 pounds. At the time, she needed a skin graft to repair the smell of her urine, thinning hair, overgrown nails, a pressure sore on her right hip and an open sore on her temple.

The intervention came after Jeanette’s longtime doctor asked for an appointment with Brush. When the senior arrived at his office on May 6, 2019, he immediately noticed that she had lost muscle mass “almost to the bone” and recommended that she be taken to the hospital.

Home situation

Officers who later searched the house where he lived testified that the house smelled of urine and that the rooms were cluttered and dirty, some filled with garbage bags and boxes.

“The bedroom occupied by (Jeanette) eight days ago was a mess, with rubbish scattered all over,” Judge Donegan wrote. “Some of the rubbish on the floor includes used sanitary pads.”

The “stench” inside Judge Donegan’s home was so great that one of the officers had to go outside at least twice to avoid vomiting. He also cited the testimony of an officer who had to stop looking for a stack of boxes of rat feces “when it rained” on her head. Another part of the house is littered with rubbish and other items that cannot be walked on.

She found the crown, the condition of the house when Janet had left, proved beyond doubt that the way it was discovered during the police search was “similar or comparable.”

“In short, the home was unsanitary, disorderly and not an environment conducive to providing (Jeanette) with proper care,” Judge Donegan wrote, and also disagreed with the TCS manager’s observation that the senior was thin, instead describing her as “” Skeleton” in photographs taken at the hospital. “She did not remove the blanket that covered her emaciated body, nor did she remove the cap that covered her scalp, the wound on her temple.”

The family needs answers

Cameron and his family are at a loss to understand how this could have happened when there should be a monitoring system in place to provide protection for those in care.

“How did you get into that house and not see the wretched condition she was in?” she asked. “If a responsible person from that agency were to visit within a two-year period, how could they not notice something seriously wrong in this situation.”

Cameron has so far given no explanation to the family, or outlined changes made in response to what happened.

“How could I have missed so much?” she said. “Our fear is that in the community, in this province, others may have the same thing happen, and that would be tragic.”

Cameron is following the trial of Astrid Dahl in New Westminster, a caregiver charged in connection with the death of Florence Girard, a woman with Down syndrome in her care.

Judgment in the case is expected next month.

And speaking up to prevent suffering

Cameron said her family wants to talk about Jeanette’s case in hopes of helping others avoid the suffering she went through.

“Something in the system failed,” he said. “What it is and how to fix it.”

Kristine DeMonte, CEO of Thompson Community Services, said no one was available for an interview, but said in an email to CTV that her company has been reviewed internally and by Community Living BC, the Crown corporation that contracts with TCS.

“We have updated our requirements regarding medications and doctor visits,” he said. “To ensure that visits take place on a regular basis, we now request direct communication from the source.”

DeMonte said a “vulnerability assessment tool” was also developed to help identify needed safeguards.

“We have brought together all of our home share managers across the province and, with the help of (a) highly respected external advisor, have re-created our home share plan that incorporates industry best practices and lessons learned,” he said.

He confirmed the manager and case worker who last visited Jeanette at Brush’s home were “employees in good standing working for TCS.”

The province says the changes have been made

Community Development Minister Nicholas Simmons, the ministry overseeing CLBC, said the CTV case was “complicated”.

“What has happened since then is that the Agency for Social Life BC and the Social Life BC themselves have changed the quality of surveillance,” he said. “Some of the changes include frequent visits four times a year with people living in housing stock arrangements. Medical appointments are documented annually and stamped by doctors.

TCS initially increased the frequency of visits and said the ministry should confirm physician visits by 2020.

Simons also added that CLPC has added quality assurance inspectors who oversee people’s placements in housing stock arrangements.

“When we hear about issues like this, we do our best to make sure we do what we can from the context,” he said. “A number of measures have been taken to ensure that such situations do not recur.”

‘A Complete, Happy Life’

Jeanette is now healthy and lives in a group home. Cameron describes himself as a relative, loving, gentle, and full-fledged man who has gained weight and is “performing better.”

“No matter what she’s been through before, she’s living a full, happy life,” he said. “We all say the only reason she’s here is because there must be a miracle.”