Family seeks partnership in elderly care decisions




May 13, 2018,

Dear Honorable Jon Gerard,

RE: The severe shortage of facilities that provide quality medical care in Portage la Prairie for elderly people    

I am writing on behalf of myself and my siblings to voice our concerns regarding my dear mother Ruth Evelyn LaFreniere. She is an elderly woman born, raised and resided in the Oakville district since 1935. She fell in her home March 2017 and broke her leg requiring hospitalization. Unfortunately, this caused her to lose her independence as she could no longer transfer herself in and out of her wheelchair. She was placed in the ECU in the Portage General Hospital due to the need of 24-hour care and supervision.

Prior to admission, our mother regardless of being in a wheelchair was able to maintain a household, host family dinners each Sunday, enjoyed her outings and loved having her family around her. During the past year while in the hospital, mom experienced serious illness, death of her husband of 64 years, as well as the death of a younger sister. Mom struggled emotionally with these losses and with having to leave her home, loss of her independence and being unable to do the things she liked doing. These are traumatic events to endure for anyone, let alone an elderly and fragile person.

This April, the Portage General Hospital medical team made a unilateral decision to transfer our mother to the Gladstone Hospital. The family was not consulted on this decision and had no say in this regard.  Our family was “informed” that the transfer would happen within a few days. Previously we were told by ETU nursing staff that our mother would not be transferred to any medical facility other than our choice which is the Douglas Campbell Lodge. The reasoning for this was because our mother required heavy daily medical and physical care. Therefore, this transfer caught us off guard and we were shocked by this decision. We had no one to appeal to with this short notice. Consequently, if we didn’t comply we were told that we would have to pay an additional $200 a day on top of her monthly fees to keep her in the Portage General Hospital. That is equal to approximately $6,000 per month…and we question who has that kind of money? We were informed that Gladstone was a good facility with good medical care.  But it does not change the fact that mom is an hour drive from her family. Our mother received daily visits by several family members because we could adapt our working schedules to accommodate this.  Now this (no) longer can happen because of the distance and we are all working.

Mom has nine children and was diligently visited daily. My sister would visit her on her lunch hour. I would travel from Winnipeg to visit her in the evenings. My other siblings would visit her throughout the day. The Portage General Hospital is not spacious, nonetheless, the nursing staff are excellent. Mom was fine in this facility. In Gladstone, she is becoming confused and depressed because her family is not with her on a daily basis. This move was not a good one for my family’s emotional and social well-being because our mother’s spirit is sadly weakening. I fear that she will die from a broken heart. While she was in Portage we would take our dear mom home on Sundays in the handivan for special family gatherings. Now that the warm weather is here we planned to take her home weekly for events, dinners or just a visit. We provided a consistent positive and optimistic plan to help sustain mom’s emotional well-being. This weekend we planned to bring her home for Mother’s Day. Due to the distance and time frame from Gladstone, it was not possible.

Ideally, Gladstone is an amazing facility, her room is spacious and clean, the medical staff have been as attentive as could be expected to mom’s physical needs. Nevertheless, mom does not have family by her side on a daily basis causing us all distress. Loneliness is known to be the number one problem for elderly people and yet this decision was made to move her away from her family. I would like to consider we are mom’s lifeline. With family close by mom’s ability to cope with the changes of her life was enhanced but now with her so far away frequent visits are not feasible. Therefore, causing all of us emotional struggles.

My family and I are advocating together, we want to make a positive change for mom, she is the vulnerable loved one and we are her voice. No one knows her journey as well as this family. Her life situation changed too quickly and has caused confusion and depression for her. She does not understand why she was moved. During this present situation, our family is doing whatever it takes and rearranging our lives to take turns to visit her in Gladstone. As I mentioned, my fear is that she will lose all hope of ever coming home and will die there. Having her in Portage la Prairie with her family close by lessened this fear.

There needs to be more accountability when regarding the quality of life for our elderly people. They are being neglected when it comes to care homes, as there is not enough of them to sustain our ageing population. We are very cognizant of Portage General Hospital shortage of beds and we know that mom being moved to Gladstone is procedural before going to an elderly care home. However, I have to mention again, “we were told that mom would not be moved outside of Portage due to her medical condition while waiting for placement to the Douglas Campbell Lodge.” We were told that placement to the DLC could take several months. Our family is requesting that a medical transfer for our mother to return to Portage either to the ETU or DLC be considered immediately. My family believes that mom will deteriorate from depression and loneliness in the Gladstone Hospital.

Your utmost attention regarding this matter is anticipated and would be greatly appreciated.

Regards from her children, the LaFreniere family, the Prince family, the Baron family, the Ducasse family, the Maxwell family, the MacKenzie family, the Ferris family, the Shaw family, the Garnham family, the Korhenan family.

c.c. PC Premier Brian Pallister, MLA Ian Wishart, MP Candace Bergman, RHA, PDGH Director, Mayor Irvin Ferris, Manitoba Health, Senior Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen, Gladstone Hospital, Prairie Medical Dr. Parker, Portage Citizen Newspaper Mickey Dumont, Protection of People in Care, Douglas Campbell Lodge Melissa McCartney, Manitoba Human Rights Commission, MMF President Dr. David Chartrand,

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