Category Archives: Health

Seniors’ Care Homes in Need of Care

With 70% of South Island residential homes rated medium or high risk, will the Ombudsperson’s report, new regulations from government, and more frequent inspections be enough to prevent the deepening crisis in seniors’ care?


Released a week before Christmas, the BC Ombudsperson’s first of two reports on the care of seniors made a brief splash in the media before drowning under the deluge of feel-good holiday fare. That was unfortunate, because Ombudsperson Kim Carter’s report, entitled The Best of Care: Getting it Right for Seniors in British Columbia (Part 1), discusses three key issues and reveals fundamental problems in seniors care and the provincial government’s reticence to address those problems.

In previous Focus articles (see “Who Has the Right to Control Your Life?” January 2009 and “Surviving the Borg,” March 2009), it became clear that seniors could far too easily and unscientifically be declared “incapable,” “incompetent” or “mentally ill” under BC’s archaic and draconian Patients Property Act or Mental Health Act, and instantly lose all of their rights. This opened the door to a variety of ills, including medical maltreatment, abuse from staff or family members, and care homes being unresponsive to complaints. Basically, as long as seniors’ rights weren’t strong, not much institutional will or political pressure to address their concerns could be generated.

A rescue plan lay in the wings, though: A modernized Adult Guardianship Act, many years in the making with stakeholders and already passed third reading in the legislature, would replace the Patients Property Act, and provide seniors in different circumstances with a much more variegated set of powers, rights and options.

Unfortunately, as Public Guardian and Trustee Jay Chalke, Q.C. laments in his latest annual report, that “long overdue” legislative change has been postponed indefinitely by the BC Liberals, supposedly “because of economic conditions.”

In that context, it’s not surprising that the Ombudsperson would issue early–with a special sense of urgency–a preliminary list of findings and recommendations on seniors care which spotlights the rights of people she describes as “the most frail and vulnerable” of all seniors: those in residential homes. Continue reading

Surviving the Borg

More stories pour in about the crisis in our residential care homes.

No article I’ve written for Focus has provoked so many impassioned calls, emails, posts to my website, and interceptions in the street than my feature about long term care of the elderly (“Who has the Right to Control Your Life?“, January).

Many relatives of seniors said the stories of deteriorating conditions in care homes and people being unfairly stripped of their rights reflected their own experiences. “On Christmas Eve in 2006, my mother was abducted,” described one woman. “[They began] transferring her to different nursing facilities where they were drugging her with so many drugs that she could not lift up her own head…”

Another wrote, “[S]taff have frequently written reports itemizing problems, and the numerous reports are consistently ignored. Continuing issues such as filth-still there; toileting-constant struggle; activities-not very many that actually engage people…”

For these people, seeing the issues publicly aired was heartening.

But many frontline care attendants accused me of being negligently selective in my examples and grossly unfair to them. Continue reading

Disaster for Sale, 15% Reduced!

I was contemplating how to stay healthy while preventing environmental catastrophe, as I’m wont to do these days. The bus to the ferry stopped next to a billboard. It was a bad omen, fitting for the times.

Nestle, the world’s largest bottled water seller (owning Perrier, S. Pelligrino, Vittel etc) wanted me to know about their “Eco-shape” bottle for Pure Life water. It uses 15% less plastic than some water bottles. A whopping 15%! Nestle added that this 15% less waste allows each of us consumers to positively “make a difference” in the world. (In U.S. ads it’s 30% — those bigger Texan bottles?)

Unfortunately, widely-publicized research has been reminding us recently of the enormous waste, pollution and carbon emissions bottled water production and distribution generate, even while most North Americans can access cheap, safe, efficient public water supplies. Also, bottled water cleanliness is spotty, and recycling of plastic bottles is itself messy and inefficient.

So, from where I was sitting, the most remarkable facet of this ad campaign was that Nestle could run it without fear of being openly mocked throughout our media. Apparently, the corporate ad executives and expert package designers who daily take the pulse of the masses know something: Despite our awareness of the depth and breadth of the environmental and health crises we’re facing, we’re still eager to swallow inane sales pitches and flimsy quick-fixes hook, line and sinker.

Why? Continue reading