Nanaimo seniors rally against elder care treatment

By Spencer Sterritt
April 3, 2017 - 4:30pm

Joan Guenther (left) and Geir Larsen (right), who have meticulous notes and files about the poor care they say they saw administered to their spouses.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW Staff

Breakfast food on Jeannie Larsen's face. Her husband Geir says it was caked on her face for hours and was humiliating. submitted photo/Geir Larsen

Mel Guenther's toe, which his wife Joan says was allowed to fester and no one at Dufferin Place paid any mind to it. submitted photo/Geir Larsen

NANAIMO — After watching their spouses wither in a residential care home in Nanaimo, two local seniors are speaking out about their concerns.

Geir Larsen's wife Jeannie was admitted to Dufferin Place, run by Island Health, in October 2014 and she passed away in care on July 28, 2016.

Larsen said he expected his wife's final years to be as peaceful as possible after years of home care, a place where “it's taken care of, you're shown respect, you're maintained, kept clean, fed. All those things you'd think would be normal, but I slowly started to find out that was not the case.”

He said he left Dufferin Place every day after visiting his wife with a “bitter taste in his mouth” after seeing his wife left with breakfast food caked around her mouth for hours and also the low quality meals she was given. He said his wife's food was to be pureed to help her eat, but it was so mashed it had essentially become water.

For Larsen, he said suicide would be better than finding himself in a care home.

His friend Joan Guenther also has a spouse at Dufferin Place. Her husband Mel entered in June, 2015. He's still there and Guenther said they'll spend their upcoming 53rd anniversary there.

Guenther said she too expected the care home to be a place for Mel to stay safe and comfortable in his twilight years. She said she's seen a lack of attention paid to patients because there's not enough staff.

“They're very busy feeding people, but they're not necessarily noticing what's going on. People falling out of their chairs, not feeding themselves, dropping things. If you're bathing someone and you're supposed to be drying their feet and looking after them, how come they have sores?” she asked. Her husband had a serious fungal infection in his toe which Guenther said went unnoticed until it was too late. “The attention isn't there and you trust that it would be. You just think to yourself 'I don't want to end up there.'”

The provincial goal for daily care hours is 3.36. A report from B.C.'s senior advocate listed Dufferin Place as reaching 3.28 hours a day.

Only nine per cent of care homes in the province reached the goal.

Both Larsen and Guenther said their issue is not with staff at Dufferin Place, but the administration they work for.

“I tip my hat to each and every (worker),” Larsen said. “They are not the problem. The problem is the way our health care system and elder care is being ran in this province. It's got to stop.”

They pinpointed the “top-heavy” architecture of Island Health, where President Brendan Carr made over $300,000 in 2016 and chief staff made significantly more than $200,000 a year, according to official documents.

“You can't keep on running a top-heavy ship because once you hit unfavourable weather, what happens? The ship will turtle,” Larsen said.

He predicted an “apocalyptic” future where there will be no more health care because all the spending will have been eaten up by administration and bureaucracy.

“Not only do we have a health care system that doesn't function as it should anymore, we are seriously standing to lose it. Unless we drive this home and hold these people 100 per cent accountable for what they do and how they set it up, nothing's going to change,” he said.

Larsen said they've sent letters to Island Health administration and public servants, such as Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, but said he wasn't satisfied with the response.

“It's pages and words without them having said anything.”

Norm Peters, the executive director of residential sites with Island Health, addressed concerns about Dufferin Place.

“Any time a family member or resident comes forward with a concern about the quality of care, it's very important to Island Health,” he said. “We look into and follow-up on each and every incident that individuals report.”

Peters said Dufferin Place had considerably low rates among all sites regarding issues such as falls and having to use restraints.

“We believe that, through the data we've seen, Dufferin provides quality care to the people who call the facility home.”

For anyone with a complaint about a residential care site operated by Island Health, Peters referred them to the patient care quality office, family counsel or site managers.


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On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

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