Montreal

Elderly woman left bruised, cut after falling from her wheelchair at LaSalle nursing home

A Montreal woman whose 89-year-old mother ended up in hospital after a fall from her wheelchair at the Centre d'hébergement de LaSalle is questioning the level of supervision at the public long-term care home.

Jadwiga Beyger has laid official complaint about poor CHSLD supervision after mother, 89, ends up in hospital

Mark Beliveau sent this photo of his grandmother, Sabina Pietrzycka, to his mother from the Montreal General Hospital after the elderly woman's fall. 'Honestly, I didn't recognize her at first,' he said. (Submitted by Mark Beliveau)

A Montreal woman whose 89-year-old mother ended up in hospital after a fall from her wheelchair at the Centre d'hébergement de LaSalle is questioning the level of supervision at the public long-term care home.

Jadwiga Beyger, who usually cares for her mother full-time at her home in LaSalle, left her in the care of the CHSLD so she could take a three-week vacation in early September.

This picture of Sabina Pietrzycka, 89, was taken in early September, before her fall from her wheelchair. (Submitted by Mark Beliveau)

Beyger cut her trip short last week, rushing back to Montreal after her son sent her photographs of his grandmother's bruised face and other injuries.

"Management tells me accidents can happen," said Beyger.

She said staff told her her mother, Sabina Pietrzycka, who suffers from advanced dementia, had wheeled herself outdoors to the institution's backyard during the lunch hour on Sept. 14. The wheelchair struck raised pavement, and Pietrzycka tumbled out.

Beyger said she is not satisfied with a nurse's explanation for the accident: that a lot of visitors drop by the CHSLD over the lunch hour.

"What do the visitors have to do with my mother?" Beyger asks. "That means nobody [was watching] her."

CHSLDs have become a hot-button issue during the Quebec election campaign, with  each party promising to improve the level of care.

In her mother's case, Beyger believes understaffing may to be blame.

Need for round-the-clock care

Beyger said when she applied to the CHSLD for respite care, she made it clear to staff there that her mother needed round-the-clock supervision.

She said her mother has good days and bad, but she is fragile and often doesn't know where she is.

At home, posted on a mirror next to the hospital-style bed, is a sign, written in Polish, to remind her, "Mama, you're home."

Jadwiga Beyger, 67, cares for her 89-year-old mother, who has dementia, at home in Montreal's LaSalle borough. On a mirror near her bed, a sign reads, in Polish, 'Mama, you're home.' (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

Before she left on vacation, Beyger said, she drew up a chart, written in Polish and translated into French, so that her mother could point to key phrases to let her caregivers at the CHSLD know when she was thirsty or hungry or had to go to the bathroom.

Beyger feels she did everything in her power to let staff know how profound her mother's needs were.

She has filed a complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner of the Montreal-West Island CIUSS, the regional health authority which administers the CHSLD in question.

In an email to CBC News, the CIUSSS said it cannot comment on the case because of confidentiality concerns, but that it "aims to provide care and services to meet the needs of its users."

Chronically short-staffed

Sophie Bibeau, the vice-president of the CUPE local representing CHSLD workers at the Montreal-West Island CIUSSS, says long-term care homes are chronically short-staffed. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

A spokesperson for the union representing health care workers at the CHSLD can't say what contributed to Pietrzycka's fall from the wheelchair, as she has not seen the elderly woman's nursing plan.

"That should never happen," said Sophie Bibeau, vice-president of CUPE local 2881.

Bibeau told CBC News she can confirm that the home was understaffed on Sept. 14. She said that is a common problem across the system.

Her local represents 3,700 caregivers, including orderlies, auxiliary nurses, kitchen staff and others.

She said the callback list is short 1,500 people, meaning it is hard to replace workers if anyone calls in sick.

"People are tired," Bibeau said. "They don't feel they have enough time to do everything."

Back in hospital

Sabina Pietrzycka is back in hospital, because a cut to her leg from her fall is infected. (Submitted by Mark Beliveau)

Pietrzycka spent the night in the Montreal General Hospital after her fall. Called by his mother to check on his grandmother in the hospital, Mark Beliveau said he didn't even recognize her when he got there.

"I see her, and she has this huge bruise on her head. She is bleeding from the forehead, and her leg is all cut up," Beliveau said.

Beyger brought her mother home from the CHSLD two days later, but Pietrzycka is now back in hospital, with an infected leg from the fall.

Beyger is now going back and forth to the hospital, looking forward to bringing her mother home again.

She says she no longer trusts the respite care offered by the CHSLD, so she won't be going on any vacations anytime soon.

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