Following revelations last week that COVID-19 made its way into a third seniors care home in the Tri-Cities, some residents’ families are calling out what they call patterns of neglect at the facility.
Fraser Health identified a single case at Nicola Lodge on May 27 and, since then, the resident has been put into isolation, according to its head doctor Dr. Martin Lavoie.
The health authority said it has now implemented “enhanced control measures” at the facility and in a written statement, the parent company, Sienna Living, outlined how staff are monitoring residents without symptoms, screening essential visitors at the door, as well as wearing surgical masks and having their temperature taken twice per shift.
Since it was revealed last week that the coronavirus had made it into the home, the Tri-City News has spoken with several family members with loved ones living at the facility.
Before the pandemic, family members describe how Nicola Lodge care aides would shower residents once a week, often missing the date and leaving them to languish without bathing for two weeks at a time.
“We have to remind them like, ‘Hey, our mother-in-law didn’t get a shower.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, she knows what day it is?’” said one family member, who spoke to the Tri-City News on condition that we not publish his name for fear of repercussions for his mother-in-law.
“They were trying to take advantage of her because they thought she had Alzheimer's,” he alleged.
Family members also say they’ve witnessed care aides laugh instead of attending to residents who have soiled themselves, and on many occasions, failed to help residents get through a meal.
“One lady, if you helped her eat, she would eat. But the workers wouldn’t even help her eat. They’d just take her food and throw it in the garbage,” said the son-in-law.
Like all seniors homes across the province, Nicola Lodge has been on lockdown since mid-March when the province placed restrictions on visitors. For some weeks, some family members of residents said they received automated messages saying there were no reported cases.
“And for the last two, three weeks, there’s been nothing,” said the son-in-law. “It’s kind of a scary thought because they have their hands on a person’s life and they have control of what could happen to her.”
The Tri-City News has not been able to independently confirm any of the allegations.
In a written response, a spokesperson for Sienna Living did not specifically address allegations of neglect, instead writing that “any time a concern is raised by a resident, staff or family member, we do everything we can to address it.”
“We take any concerns very seriously,” added director of communications and stakeholder relations Natalie Gokchenian.
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Nicola Lodge marks the 17th seniors home run by Sienna Living that has identified at least one case of COVID-19. Most are in Ontario, including the Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, one of five seniors homes singled out by the Canadian Armed Forces in a recent report.
At the Ontario facility, the report detailed "horrific" allegations of insect infestations, aggressive resident feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections, and residents crying for help for hours.
And while some allegations of neglect, like how residents are not receiving three meals a day and how the military brought in its own food to feed residents, echo the allegations at Nicola Lodge, others, like bed sores worn through to the bone and dangerous errors in administering medication, go much further.
Shares in the company plunged last week following the release of the military report, slipping to $9.08 by Tuesday, June 2, a 10-year low that's less than half their $19.61 value on Feb. 18.
Some family members of Nicola Lodge residents say the facility has worked hard to keep the disease out and shouldn’t be painted with the same brush just because it’s owned by the same parent company.
Coquitlam’s Patti Pauquette — who has both parents and her 63-year-old sister at Nicola Lodge — said that while the company has had problems in Ontario, Nicola Lodge moved quickly to shut its doors in March and have gone “above and beyond” when it comes to implementing safety measures, performing extra cleaning and taking care of residents.
“There’s always two sides to every story,” she said. “I’ve only seen good things.”
“Maybe that just stays back east.”