The family of an elderly Nova Scotia woman with Alzheimer's disease is struggling to care for her after her seniors' home was ordered to shut down Wednesday.
Fire officials said Marilyn's Country Haven, a six-bed operation near Stewiacke, wasn't safe and its residents had to move. There was no advanced notice and the six residents had to leave that day.
Some are staying with family or at another care home, while others were just taken to the local emergency room.
Kathleen Drysdale said the last two days have been tough on her mother Kaye, who is 76. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is confused by the sudden move from her home of seven years.
“She kept sitting here and she kept saying, ‘It's time to take me home now.’ She couldn't get it into her head — she just wanted to go home,” Drysdale said.
Kelly Regan backs sudden closure
Kelly Regan, the Liberal minister for labour, said shutting the home was the right decision.
“There was no exit plan. There was no training for staff to evacuate the residents. So in my view, the fire marshal acted appropriately,” she said.
Fire officials also cited a lack of second-floor fire escapes, a narrow interior staircase, and locks on some interior doors.
Drysdale said some of those locks were to keep her mother from trying to run to her old home.
“She won't put any shoes on — just out the door. She thinks going down the Alton Road will take her right into Spryfield,” she said.
Drysdale said fire officials have visited the home before, so she doesn’t understand why they acted so swiftly Wednesday. The home has been operating for 14 years. She said it does have an evacuation plan.
“It's maddening because they're there and they're going through the living room, they're going up the stairs, going up to all the patients' bedrooms to check on all the smoke detectors there. Why didn't they say something then?”
She wants the home to re-open as soon as possible.
'If I thought it was unsafe, there's no way my mother would be there.' - Kathleen Drysdale
“I don't think it's unsafe. If I thought it was unsafe, there's no way my mother would be there. I wouldn't keep her there,” Drysdale said.
The department of labour said the home can reopen as soon as it addresses the fire marshal's concerns and he clears it.
However, the Department of Health and Wellness said if the facility offers nursing care, it would now have to go through a long, demanding licensing process to become a nursing home before it re-opened.
Families must monitor homes
Leo Glavine, the health minister, said unregulated small homes for seniors are classed as boarding houses and not tracked by the government. He said the government only intervenes if someone complains.
“It is concerning, but I’m not sure how we can find out all of these places,” he said.
Glavine said he expects families will closely monitor where a loved-one lives — checking its evacuation plan, suppression systems for fires and knowing if their parents are mobile enough to escape.
“It’s like the Quebec tragedy,” he said, referring to the deadly fire at Résidence du Havre.
“Are we doing the best job to ensure safety in our licensed homes? In the matter of unlicenced, it’s a matter of us acting when reported."
He said he doesn't know how many small, unlicenced, seniors homes operate in Nova Scotia.