Saskatchewan senior dies after eating detergent pods

The death of a senior citizen from eating laundry detergent pods in a Moose Jaw, Sask., care home should be blamed on short-staffing, a former care worker in the facility says.

Man suffering from dementia wandered from room at Moose Jaw care home

Providence Place is a 160-bed long-term care facility in Moose Jaw. (Google Street View)

The death of a senior citizen from eating laundry detergent pods in a Moose Jaw, Sask., care home should be blamed on short-staffing, a former care worker in the facility says.

NDP Leader Cam Broten raised the issue in the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday. He said the man, suffering from dementia, had wandered out of his room at Providence Place and eaten the poisonous detergent.

Eunice Blanchard, who recently retired after 34 years of work there, told reporters that residents and staff are afraid to speak out. She described the facility as understaffed and chaotic.

"They've been trying to shut me up," Blanchard said. "But I'm not going to. So that's what they do when it gets out there. They try and shut you up so you don't say anything."

She added: "It's a gong show."

Providence Place is a 160-bed long-term care facility owned and operated by the Catholic Health Ministry.

Blanchard said the man with dementia died at the home on March 20 after wandering unsupervised and eating the laundry detergent pods.

"That is unbelievable," Broten told reporters. "It's so sad to think of a senior confused, not knowing what's going on, and being left to wander to get into such a dangerous situation." He said Blanchard had brought the conditions to his attention.

A man with dementia died at a Moose Jaw seniors' home on March 20 after eating laundry detergent pods.

Bert Linklater, senior vice-president of operations at the Five Hills Health Region, whose purview includes Providence Place, told CBC News the investigation is complete and that action plans are being implemented.

"We don't want to fix blame to anybody," Linklater said. "Primarily, we want to make sure we do everything we can and everything we identify to make sure that this doesn't happen to any other resident in that facility or any other facility."

Linklater said the health region wants to ensure residents don't have access to such ingestible substances.

Paul Nyhof, chief executive of Providence Place, said he's seen "no sign of unresolved issues" from residents or staff. 

"Everyone would like more staffing," Nyhof said, adding they are staffed according to a funding model.

Funding increased

"It's one of the few facilities that does have washer and dryer in the units for the residents if they want to do their own laundry," he said.

The provincial government said funding to the facility has increased by 46 per cent since 2007. Staffing has increased by nine per cent.

Broten pointed to a broader pattern of difficulties in personal care homes.

"The stories — not from one spot, but from all over the province — sadly and tragically keep coming to the legislature," he said.

On Monday, the NDP raised the concerns of care aide Peter Bowden, who works at Oliver Lodge in Saskatoon.

Bowden has said residents are at risk of skin infections because they are left in soiled diapers and bedding for up to 10 hours.

He said at times on his night shift he is left alone to look after 32 residents and more staff are required to provide better care.

Death in 2013

Ombudsman Mary McFadyen began an investigation in November following the death and alleged mistreatment of a senior at a Regina care home.

Margaret Warholm lived at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home until her death in October 2013.

Medical records show Warholm lost almost 14 kilograms in a year and had compression fractures in her vertebrae. She also had a large bed sore on her back that her family believes could have been prevented.

McFadyen said in January that her office had received about 35 complaints related to care in long-term care facilities since her investigation started.

She said the complaints are about poor quality of care, low staff-to-resident ratios, a lack of accountability and poor communication.

With files from The Canadian Press


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