Calgary families sue Revera-owned nursing homes, alleging negligence and poor care
Families seek millions of dollars in damages alleging negligence in care caused or contributed to two deaths
A confiscated wheelchair, unused, expired medications and threats of eviction — that's how Isabel Nelson's daugther describes her mother's stay at a long-term care home owned by Ontario-based Revera Inc.
The company is facing as many as 85 lawsuits across the country, alleging it breached its duty of care for its elderly residents in Ontario and western Canada.
Most families are seeking between $1.75 million to $3 million in damages and court costs. The total amount across the country is estimated to be between $150 million to $175 million.
At least four Calgary families are making similar claims in documents filed last month with the Court of Queen's Bench, including two who say the negligence and deficiencies in care by the defendants caused or materially contributed to the death of their loved ones.
Leslie Armstrong, Isabel Nelson's daughter, doesn't think her mother's care contributed to her death, but the experience left a lasting mark.
"It was an emotional beatup that she never completely bounced back from," she said.
Nelson died in February 2018, two years after she was evicted from the Revera facility in Okotoks, Alta. She was 85.
She spent nearly 2½ years at the facility, and according to her daughter was constantly being threatened with eviction.
All four Calgary families' stories are laid out in court documents, describing what their loved ones experienced at Revera's homes in Bowness, McKenzie Towne and Okotoks.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Wheelchair taken away
According to Nelson's claim, her electric wheelchair was taken away after she bumped into a glass door and broke it.
The family says the chair was "confiscated" for about two weeks, during which time they say Nelson was "essentially trapped in place," and completely reliant on staff to move her — even when she needed to use the washroom.
Armstrong says this was being done to her mother as punishment for damaging the door, even though the family had paid for the repairs.
The statement also says that Nelson "repeatedly had difficulty obtaining her medication in a timely fashion, or was given the wrong medication, or was not given her medication at all."
During an "asthmatic episode," Nelson rang the call bell for staff to bring her [Ventolin] medication — but no one responded, the claim states.
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Nelson "was forced to go to the front desk during the episode and instruct Revera staff to urgently obtain the Ventolin," said the claim. The claims says "the nurse did not appear to recognize what Ventolin was, or what to look for.
"The plaintiff was afraid for her life, given the delay in getting the Ventolin to the plaintiff," it read.
The family is seeking at least $500,000 in damages.
Company can't comment
Revera hasn't been formally served with the lawsuits, but company spokesperson Larry Roberts said in a statement to CBC News that privacy laws preclude them from discussing any details about residents.
"At this time, we have not been served with any new claims. We will deal with any legal actions presented to us at the appropriate time and through proper legal channels," he said.
"At Revera, we are committed to providing a safe, caring and supportive environment in which all our residents are treated with dignity and respect. Revera believes that serving older adults is not only a great privilege, but also a great responsibility."
Poor treatment, falls, physical assaults
The families of Nadezda Marenich and Mary Gerber allege the negligence and deficiencies in care by the defendants caused or materially contributed to the deaths of their loved ones at two separate homes in August, 2017.
Marenich's claim says that she suffered falls that resulted in injuries "because she was not properly cared for by staff," during her eight year stay at the Revera facility in McKenzie Towne.
The claim also says Marenich developed a urinary tract infection that "was not properly managed by staff" and that she was physically assaulted by staff and/or other residents, she was not sufficiently fed or hydrated and was forced to live in unsanitary condtions.
Gerber's statement alleges that she had open sores and wounds on her legs that were not sufficiently treated, causing her pain and suffering during her 10-year stay at the Bow-Crest care home.
Her family also alleges that her physicians breached their duty of care to her.
The family of Emmet De Grood, who was also a resident at Bow-Crest, is making similar allegations against Revera.
- De Grood suffered an undetected UTI that required an extended period of hospitalization.
- He was subjected to bullying and harrassment by management and staff.
- He was not sufficiently fed or hydrated.
- He suffered multiple falls, which caused serious injuries, including fractures, bruises, cuts and abrasions.
One of the lawyers handling the families' claims would not say when the court documents will be served.
"That's gonna be a strategy decision on our part, how we choose to do that," said Melissa Miller with the Toronto-based firm.
'General, poor care'
Miller said an application for class action status was discontinued last year. The plaintiffs are proceeding under mass tort status, she said, which means each family will have a separate lawsuit against Revera but the cases will be dealt with as a group.
Miller says the claims are similar but still shocking to hear.
"Most of the calls that I get seem to revolve around just general poor care. People are calling me about bedsores that aren't getting taken care of... malnutrition, dehydration are huge," she said.
"And then of course there's some actual abuse and some falls, but generally speaking it's the day-to-day care that we're seeing problems with.
"It's an unfortunate reality that there doesn't seem to be enough staff in these homes for the level of care that people need."
'There was never enough staff'
Armstrong hopes to see changes to the way the long-term care homes are run and she believes a positive step would be an increase in staffing.
"They [caregivers] were spread too thin and they were working ridiculous hours and some of them I know were working three and four jobs because they couldn't afford to just work the one that they had," she said.
"I mean they really did care about the seniors they were looking after, at least in my experience. That was the case but there was never enough staff."
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.