An 82-year-old woman was attacked in long-term care. Her son is calling for changes to the system
When Sean Pinsent's phone rang in the early morning hours of March 7 and the display showed his sister's number, he was worried right away — about his mother Patricia Pinsent, who has advanced dementia and lives in long-term care.
But he wasn't prepared for what he would hear: his mother had been attacked at night, while asleep in her bed.
"I was very shocked, saddened, heartbroken," Pinsent said from his home in Medicine Hat, Alta.
"I mean, she gave birth to five children who grew up to be very good, outstanding citizens. And in her final days, I'm sorry, she did not deserve this."
Patricia, an 82-year-old resident of the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Care Centre in Botwood, sustained injuries to her neck and face, as well as a fractured wrist during the attack on March 4. Pictures provided to CBC News by Sean Pinsent show heavy bruising on his mother's face, neck and wrist.
Staff at the facility, said Pinsent, notified his sister, who lives in central Newfoundland and is their contact person, saying that another resident was responsible.
"The response from them was, 'Oh, don't worry, she's fine. It looks worse than it is,'" said Pinsent, adding that while his sister received an apology from the facility a few days after the incident, the family hasn't heard from Central Health, the regional health authority for the area..
The response to the incident concerns him. An X-ray that showed the fracture, he said, took days to be done. And while she gets pain medication, her wrist hasn't been immobilized, Pinsent said.
Given his mother's injuries, Pinsent filed a report with the RCMP in the hope that an investigation would determine their exact cause, but he was told the RCMP had not gotten a report about the incident from the facility.
The RCMP didn't answer emailed questions by CBC News about the attack or about protocols for incidents in long-term care facilities.
Pinsent said he isn't looking to blame individuals but he wants to see an internal investigation into what happened and how future incidents can be prevented.
"Whether it was a resident or some other causal factor, the system here obviously failed my mother, it's failed others in the past, and we cannot allow this to go on," said Pinsent, pointing to a recent report by VOCM News that a long-term care resident in Carbonear had been attacked.
"Once is an incident, two or more times is a pattern, so there is a problem. Has that problem been addressed properly in the right channels? Has it been fixed? Obviously, no."
Pinsent said his mother was moved to a different wing and his sister was told the facility would increase staff checks on their mother from every hour to every 15 minutes but he doesn't think the measures address the bigger picture. He said systemic changes — like addressing staff shortages — need to happen to better protect residents.
"People are overworked. They're stressed. Things can happen. Things get overlooked or missed at times, I understand that," said Pinsent.
"They're absolutely exhausted and could be prone to making mistakes due to that exhaustion."
Irene Pack, Central Health's director of long-term care and community supports, acknowledges facilities occasionally face staffing issues.
"It's very regrettable and we take every measure to keep our residents safe and secure," said Pack.
"We want to ensure that our residents receive quality care and to ensure that there's sufficient staffing available to deliver not only care but supervision."
While Pack wouldn't comment on the incident involving Pinsent's mother, she said whether a resident is taken elsewhere for assessment depends on the injury and on the availability of necessary equipment, like X-rays, within a facility.
She said any attacks inside long-term care facilities are taken seriously.
"Whether it's resident on resident, staff on resident, so on and so forth, we are very responsive to make sure that the risk is mitigated," said Pack.
Whenever an incident occurs within a Central Health long-term care facility, she said, a "full and thorough investigation" is done, and any criminal activity is reported to law enforcement. Residents' safety, she said, is a priority for the regional health authority.
"If there's findings from our investigation that can improve service delivery, safety and security of a resident in our care, then we definitely would put a plan in place to implement any recommendations," said Pack.
"We want to ensure that our residents receive good quality care and a good quality of living."
That's what Sean Pinsent wants, too. While it's too late for his mother Patricia, he hopes the incident will prevent other families from having to go through the same experience.
"We're eventually someday going to be in that situation," he said.
"Would we want it to happen to us? Would we want it to happen to anybody else? Absolutely not."