WARNING: This story contains images and descriptions that some might find disturbing.
A woman who says she found her mother left sitting in her own feces with a fungus growing on her hand in a Fort McMurray continuing care facility is calling on Alberta Health Services to conduct a full inquiry into the centre.
Toni Stacey moved her mother, who has dementia, into the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre six years ago. Since then, she says she’s come to visit her mother multiple times, only to find the older woman has not been cleaned or changed.
Once, she says, her mother took a bad fall and was not found until a group of visitors to the centre stumbled across her. Stacey herself wasn’t informed about the fall for several hours and ended up taking her mother to the emergency room to get stitches herself.
Stacey attributes her mother’s injury and continuing discomfort to inadequate staffing at the continuing care centre.
Then things got worse, she says.
“That day, we went into the room and first of all, we experienced a really bad smell … we were cleaning my mom, we cleaned her whole body – there was feces, urine – she’d been sitting in it for some time before we arrived.”
Stacey says her mother typically keeps her fist clenched. In the past, she’s asked staff to take care the hand was regularly cleaned and dried to prevent infection.
But when she coaxed her mother’s hand open, she found a white filmy substance coating her hand.
“I’m no doctor, but looking at things from my perspective, it looked to be a fungus growing there.”
Stacey tracked down a nurse and showed her the fungus. She says the nurse asked her “Wow, how did this happen?”
Stacey then asked to speak to her mother’s doctor, but was told he only comes in once a week – something Stacey finds unacceptable.
“We can’t be there 24 hours, we can’t be there every day. But we are doing our best,” she said.
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Before leaving that day, Stacey and her sister cleaned up their mother’s hand as much as they could.
“She was in a lot of pain, she would try to take her hand back it was so sore. We cleaned it all up, dried it out as much as possible but it was still really red, really sore so I knew she needed some medication.”
When she got home, she posted a message about the incident to her Facebook page, which has now been shared thousands of times.
The next morning, Stacey received a call from the hospital’s director, who told her she’d seen the message and that the doctor had been brought in to look at her mother’s hand and take a swab of the fungus-like substance.
But Stacey says this is not enough. She says the care centre needs to be better staffed.
“There comes a time when you get to the point where you try to deal with things locally, and you keep begging and pleading and asking for help – and things go unnoticed,” she said.
“I have been fighting this battle for six years and we have found my mom many times in quite a mess and when I looked and found this fungus on her hand … it really pushed me over the edge.”
Asked whether she had tried to move her mother to another facility, Stacey said it’s not an option.
“Unfortunately we do not have a choice in Fort McMurray. This is the only continuing care place to put her,” she said. “We’re left with no other options.”
Given this reality, Stacey says she’d like to see a full inquiry into patient care at the centre.
“I would like to see proper care. Whether it’s a breakdown in not enough funds, not enough staff – there are some ongoing issues, there is no leadership there.”
AHS says the case is under investigation, but remains confident all patients at the centre are being well cared for.