Today the Canadian Press wrote about eight elderly Nova Scotians who died violent deaths in Nova Scotia care facilities. The CP article barely touches the depth of the problem.
A representative for the Department of Health says the department doesn’t publicly release deaths because there doesn’t appear to be an intent to kill. “Often times these cases may not be violent. They (residents) push them (other residents) out of way and … it may not be a level of violence.”
How do we know that? How does the government? Until someone shines a light on a problem, most things are hidden and allowed to fester. Nova Scotia is great at protecting the reputations of executives, not so great at protecting people. Remember Westray?
For over a decade the Halifax-based Advocates for the Care of the Elderly (ACE) have attempted to get government action about nursing home care standards and conditions. It’s been an uphill struggle.
ACE have addressed: falls, nourishment, incontinency, bathing, physiotherapy, supplies, facility infections and violence.
According to ACE, “During the past ten years there have been 60 deaths that have occurred in nursing homes that were declared homicides without anyone being held accountable, leaving families of victims without closure to the loss of their loved one.”
This violence includes resident-to-resident and resident-to-staff violence. In a nursing home all patients become part of a general population. Some can be physically frail, some can be made docile from heavy medication. Some may have dementia, others can have addiction issues (which they came with or developed in care) or become aggressive because of reactions to medications. And some may have criminal backgrounds and have a history of violence.
Sixty homicides in a decade equates to a death every two months. That suggests a far greater problem than the Department of Health wants us to know about. A death every eight weeks is almost an epidemic. What is the plan of action and when will it be implemented?