Braid: Seniors shower issue deserves serious response, Tories vow to review bathing standards in care homes as outrage grows

Tories vow to review bathing standards in care homes as outrage grows by Jamie Komarnicki, November 28, 2012, Calgary Herald
Liberal health critic David Swann said in the legislature on Wednesday that the once-a-week minimum bathing policy at Carewest care home presents a health risk both to individuals and in terms of the spread of infectious diseases. The associate minister for seniors pledged Wednesday to review the province’s standards for bathing seniors and disabled Albertans in care homes — but family members of residents said a once-a-week policy for baths and showers falls far short. Calgarian Arlene Choquette said her mother, who lived in a long-term-care home for two and a half years, was appalled to learn she’d get only one bath a week. Her mother passed away three years ago, but her experience at the southwest Calgary home with bathing, food quality and other concerns, “makes my blood boil,” Choquette said. “I think it’s utmost in people’s memories of what they’ve experienced by having a loved one put in that position. Imagining yourself in that same position down the road, it’s not very comforting,” said Choquette, who blamed underfunding and lack of staff for the standards.

The issue was raised in the legislature this week by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who called the once-a-week bathing minimum policy in place at Carewest homes shameful. The problem extends to other care centres funded and operated by Alberta Health Services, Liberal health critic David Swann said in the legislature Wednesday. “Imagine having incontinence two, three more times a day and having a single bath a week. This is both a risk to the individual and to spreading infectious disease in an institution and a community,” he said.

George VanderBurg, associate minister for seniors, said a government review of the standards is now in the works. “I’ve discussed this matter with the health minister and, together, we’re going to have a look at this issue,” he said. “The standard of personal care is developed with personal attendants of each of our seniors’ facilities. They’re trained professionals. With the family members, the care plan is developed. I’ll stand by that care plan,” he added. Former long-term-care centre nursing attendant Susan Slade said seniors used to be given at least two baths a week until policies changed about a decade ago. Slade, now a licensed practical nurse and vice-president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the scaled back bathing is a health concern. It also cuts back on critical interaction between health-care providers and the residents, she said. “A minimum standard of one bath a week is unacceptable. The appropriate bathing needs to be put back in place,” said Slade.

Joyce Johnston, whose close friend is now a resident of a Carewest centre in northeast Calgary and suffered infections to his feet after moving in, called the situation “really, really, so sad.” “This man should have a bath every day,” she said. [Emphasis added]

Braid: Seniors shower issue deserves serious response by Don Braid, November 28, 2012, Calgary Herald
Liberal MLA Kent Hehr says seniors and disabled people in care are only getting one shower a week — and the government didn’t deny it Tuesday.  … Anyone can imagine how it would feel to endure days of grime with no relief until the seventh day. We would feel dreadful, disgusted and demeaned. We would be angry. … “Those people said, ‘Who gives a damn about that — we only get one shower a week. How do you feel about that, Kent’?” … When Hehr raised the issue in the legislature, the associate minister in charge, George VanderBurg, made a dreadful mistake. He chose to treat it as a partisan attack instead of a serious question. That led him to condescend to Hehr, the Calgary-Buffalo MLA who has been in a wheelchair since he was the victim of a drive-by shooting at age 21. The optics were so dreadful that the PC MLAs behind VanderBurg took on the solemn look of mourners at a funeral. … But VanderBurg blundered by following the lead of senior ministers, including deputy premier Thomas Lukazsuk, who’ve taken to answering opposition members as if they were dim schoolchildren. That might work when the subject is debt or roads. With showers and seniors, not a chance. First, Hehr asked if it’s true that seniors and disabled people only get one shower a week. “It’s clear that the member doesn’t understand the process,” VanderBurg said. “What’s available is appropriate bathing and appropriate care in all our facilities.” Hehr continued: “Is this a reasonable policy for people in this province to live under, to get only one shower a week?” Speaking with elaborate disdain, VanderBurg said: “Maybe this time I’ll say it slower. The amount of showers, the amount of bathing, the amount of safety provided in our seniors facilities is appropriate and what’s needed. “I’d never get down to saying one per week, and in some cases maybe the residents may need more, and that’s what the local decision-makers will always do, they’ll make a decision that’s best for the senior …” That sure sounded like an admission of a one-shower standard. As Hehr closed in again, VanderBurg continued: “I will say it even slower Mr. Speaker. The appropriate care is always provided for the residents of our … senior facilities across the province.” [Emphasis added]

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