New Brunswick

Senior sent home from hospital was waiting for a nursing home bed, says family

Sandee Thornton said her family's been thrown into turmoil since her 69-year-old father was discharged from the Upper River Valley Hospital Saturday and delivered by ambulance to his home in Woodstock.

'They were moving anybody who could be moved because of the possible pandemic coming'

Glenn Thornton, pictured with his grandson Derrick Dow, was on the list to go to a nursing home but was sent to his home in Woodstock instead after the province started moving ALC patients out of hospitals because of COVID-19. (Submitted by Sandee Thornton)

Sandee Thornton said her family's been thrown into turmoil since her 69-year-old father was discharged from the Upper River Valley Hospital on Saturday and delivered by ambulance to his home in Woodstock.

The family had less than 24 hours' notice to prepare for the arrival of Glenn Thornton, who had been in hospital since Sept. 23, when he broke his hip.

While in hospital, recovering from hip replacement surgery, Glenn Thornton was assessed on Nov. 14, and it was determined that he needed the highest level of nursing home care, said Sandee.

"The last time I looked, he was number 20 on the waiting list to get into Carleton Manor in Woodstock," she said.

Last week, the province flagged its intent to move 65 long-term care patients from hospital beds to nursing homes to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Identified as alternative level of care patients, or ALCs, many have waited weeks and months to get into nursing homes, not because all homes lack beds but because staff shortages prevent some homes from filling those beds.

Sandee said her mother, Jane Thornton, got the call last Friday afternoon, advising her that her husband would arrive the next morning.

"His doctor [told my mother] that they were bringing him home, that they were moving anybody who could be moved, because of the possible pandemic that was coming," said Sandee.

Paramedics delivered him around 1 p.m. and carried him over the icy walkway and into the house, she said.

Difficult situation

Sandee, who had driven from Fredericton to her parents' home in Woodstock, hoping to help, was wondering how her mother, all by herself, would manage.

Sandee said her father has limited mobility and sometimes gets agitated as a result of his progressing vascular dementia.

"He can be irritated in a matter of seconds and it won't stop," said Sandee.

Sandee Thornton said her father was number 20 on the waiting list to get into Carleton Manor in Woodstock before COVID-19. (Google Maps)

She said her father also has osteoarthritis, a heart condition and problems with his balance and is diabetic.

"I stayed with him while my mother went to the drugstore to sort out his medication," said Sandee.

"She would have told them that she's not ready for dad — that it's not possible to have this happen. Because from day one, we've explained to them about the way the house is set up and the accessibility and everything like that."

Level of care

Sandee said her father was assessed as requiring level four care.

Patients who have been assessed at level four have difficulties with cognition or behaviour and require supervision and care around the clock. They may be aggressive toward others and they often need maximum assistance with their personal care.

Sandee said her mother called Bayshore Homecare Solutions on Saturday to request an assessment for home support services. Someone came to the house Monday afternoon, and the family was told to expect some assistance Wednesday.

At Tuesday's afternoon COVID-19 briefing chief medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said she was unaware of any long-term care patients being sent home. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Sandee said she was surprised at how quickly that happened.

Bayshore declined to take a call from CBC News about current assessment times, saying staff were completely focused on client care.

Sandee Thornton said her mother believes her father is still on the waiting list to get into the nursing home.

"What's going to make this more challenging now is that he's in the mindset that he's home, and he's going to have even more difficulty going to the manor after this," said Sandee.

No response

Messages left with Carleton Manor have not been returned.

The Department of Social Development deferred inquiries on this story to the Health Department, which did not return messages.

Inquiries to Horizon Health have yet to be returned.

At Tuesday's afternoon COVID-19 briefing, chief medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said she was unaware of any long-term care patients being sent home.

Sandee said her mother had been wondering whether she could keep working as a personal support worker in a special care home with her husband so ill at home. However, the family is hopeful that the home care support will enable Jane Thornton to stay at her job.

"My mother just wishes that she'd had more notice," said Sandee.

About the Author

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

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