After a lifetime of working hard and (for some of us) raising families, we all hope to be able to enjoy our free time during the euphemistically-termed "golden years. " But for many people, old age simply means facing new and more difficult challenges, and without all of the mental and physical resources they had when they were younger. That's why — as we require more help to take care of ourselves are less able to live independently — it's important that care homes meet the expectations that we would want for either our aging parents or for ourselves. Camille Parent of Peterborough, Ontario thought he had found just such a facility to look after his mother Helen, who was suffering from Alzheimer's.
The staff at St. Joseph's at Fleming had said all the right things when Camille was deliberating where to place his mother. They had talked about "compassionate care, loving respect and dignity" as being a core part of their home's philosophy. The home's website proudly displays the motto: "Setting the standard for compassionate care and innovation." Who wouldn't want their beloved parent to be taken care of according to such high principles?
Unfortunately, Camille came to discover that not everyone St. Joseph's was walking the walk when it came to how the home was run. His suspicions were particularly aroused when one day he discovered that his mother had a black eye. How could that happen? He couldn't seem to get a straight answer, so he decided to investigate further.
He installed a nanny cam in his mother's room so that he could be assured that she was being properly treated. Although he was obviously skeptical that this was the case, he never expected to discover the extent of mistreatment that was occurring.
The offenses ranged from initially unsettling — such as a caretaker blowing his nose into the bed sheets that he is putting on Helen's bed — to truly egregious physical and emotional abuse.
Footage showed two employees groping and kissing each other without regard to Helen's presence in the room. Disturbed, she turns away from embarrassment. But even more horrifying, a female care worker is seen changing Helen's soiled undergarments, but instead of completing the task in a sensitive way that maximizes her dignity, the worker waves a feces-covered cloth in Helen's face, taunting her.
Footage also revealed other residents coming into Helen's room, rifling through her possessions and taking whatever they wanted. It seemed no measures were in place to prevent this. It's certainly likely that the residents were also suffering from dementia and were therefore not be responsible for their own behavior. But that is precisely why a care home needs to be sure that residents are not only treated well by staff, but also protected from one another. St. Joseph's appeared to be failing miserably on both fronts.
The most shocking footage involved a female staff member violently handling Helen while changing her undergarments.
Helen is clearly in pain and upset. But the heartless care worker is unmoved by the suffering she is causing and continues to sadistically abuse her. Camille was understandably traumatized to see his mother treated so inhumanely by people he was paying to take care of her. This breach of duty of care is really unforgivable. "How can I ever have trust again? How can anybody have trust after seeing what we've seen?" he lamented.
When St. Joseph's then-CEO Alan Cavell was shown the video, he agreed that the home had let itself and its patients down badly. "It is totally unacceptable and I will make sure that actions are taken to prevent any such abuse in the future," he said.
In this video you can see the nanny-cam footage but be warned: these scenes are disturbing.
All of the staff involved in the offenses were dismissed after investigations were carried out. After one employee involved in the kissing incident was rehired by order of an arbitration panel, Camille decided he was no longer comfortable keeping his mother at St. Joseph's and he moved her to another facility. The Board of Directors also replaced the CEO of the home. To Camille's dismay, no criminal charges were ever brought against the staff who committed the abuse.
Camille's mother Helen passed away in September 2016. She had served as a nurse during the early days of World War II before herself fleeing the Nazis and emigrating alone to Canada. She later married and raised seven children. Thanks to her caring son, she was able to live out the remainder of her days without suffering further mistreatment. Although Camille will probably always have regrets where St. Joseph's is concerned, bringing the matter to public attention has raised important awareness about abuses in care homes and has undoubtedly prevented others from suffering.