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Residents of long term care facilities are at risk, woman alleges

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This is a story as told to us by Ellen Rudderham-Gaudet, who believes all is not well with long term care in Nova Scotia. Several years ago Rudderham-Gaudet’s parents  both resided in a long term care facility in Halifax. When Rudderham-Gaudet noticed things didn’t seem right she spoke up. Neither the facility’s administration nor the government really wanted to hear what she had to say.

Often I would find a dining room full of residents without anyone supervising. Or I would go into a corridor and there’d be ten or  fifteen people there, but no staff to be seen. One night there was no staff on the whole floor for 25 minutes. I stayed because I couldn’t find even one care person,” says Rudderham-Gaudet.

The family also felt compelled to have a part time nurse to assist the mother, since regular staff was unable to provide the care her mother required. This was on top of the 15-20 hours Rudderham-Gaudet would spend at the facility to take care of her mother herself. Supplementary care would cost something like $1000 per month, on top of the $6000 per month the family paid the facility for their parents’ care.

Long term care in Nova Scotia is in crisis, critics say. Facilities in Nova Scotia are understaffed, and a target of government cuts. Yet because patients tend to arrive at an older age, and thus with more advanced health issues, they tend to require more intensive care than ever before.     

One day my mother was the same old, and the next day she couldn’t talk

“My mother was in a lot of pain. Then one day my mother was the same old, and the next day she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t lift her head, she would barely open her eyes, and she wouldn’t eat,” says Rudderham-Gaudet.

Eventually Rudderham-Gaudet’s brother, who has Power of Attorney over the parents, discovered that his mother was put on three milligrams of dilaudid, an opioid pain medication. Family felt that was too high a dose, administered too suddenly, But when Rudderham-Gaudet wanted to talk to a doctor she hit a wall.  

“They wouldn’t tell me who the doctor was who issued the prescription. My brother informed the facility that he wanted this stopped immediately, but he was told that the doctor overruled that. They gave us the runaround and stopped us from talking with the doctor” says Rudderham-Gaudet.

Rudderham-Gaudet says that at the time she also contacted the people who administer the Protection for Persons in Care Act, legislation that deals with abuse of patients and residents. But she never heard back.

It wasn’t until the extremely worried family threatened to call the police that the medication was stopped.

Previous to this Rudderham-Gaudet’s mother was put on Risperdal, an anti-psychotic medicine. Its United States manufacturer warns  that Risperdal is not approved for use in patients with dementia-related psychosis and increases the risk of death.

As a result of the medication her mother couldn’t swallow. Rudderham-Gaudet complained, only to find out that the dosage had increased. Several times her mother was left without supervision while within reach of food, which Rudderham-Gaudet feels put her mother at risk of suffocation. Then the prescription was stopped.

Anonymous call

A couple of months later the family received a call from an unknown person who alleged that the mother had been subjected to rough treatment by a caregiver at the facility.

The caller said that a nurse who was in the room while the incident occurred had called on the caregiver to stop. The anonymous caller also alleged that management told that nurse not to report the incident. The caller was not the nurse in question, but supposedly calling on behalf of that nurse.

Management later confirmed that an incident occurred, although it was suggested that the treatment hadn’t really been rough, and that the caregiver was facing challenges.  

Once again Rudderham-Gaudet complained to the people in charge of administering the Protection for Persons in Care Act. She received a letter back stating that circumstances were not sufficient to warrant an investigation.

Management later told her that the accusations against the caregiver were unfounded.

Whatever really happened, to receive a call like that about your mother is bound to be upsetting. What took place remains a mystery to Rudderham-Gaudet. “I never got an understanding of what happened,” she says.


Rudderham-Gaudet used to play the piano for residents at the home as often as three or four times per week. “Residents just loved it, staff loved it because it was helpful, so in a sense I had a great relationship with staff and management,“ Rudderham-Gaudet observes.

That all changed after the incidents described in this story, and further escalated after Rudderham-Gaudet’s parents moved to a different facility.  Rudderham-Gaudet, feeling attached to the residents she had befriended, was eager to continue the concerts and visits. But it was not to be.

“I received an email after my parents were moved, saying that we don’t want your volunteer services. If you want to visit a resident you can only come to the front lobby and we will bring that resident down to the lobby,” Rudderham-Gaudet says. “I was in shock.”

Once again Rudderham-Gaudet turned to the Protection of Persons in Care Act, which forbids retaliation for reporting abuse. Once again her complaint went nowhere.

When she ignored the directive, and played for the residents again, the facility told her to stay away, and that police would be called if she didn’t.   

“I really miss those people who were my friends,” Rudderham-Gaudet says.

“In memory of my mother, and those that don’t have anybody, I want to encourage other people to not abandon their loved ones,” she says.

Gaudet requested that we do not identify the facility in Halifax where her parents lived. She believes the challenges her family  faced trying to ensure her mother was well looked after are not unique to this one institution. She still holds many workers there in high regards. 

None of Gaudet’s allegations have been proven. The Government and nursing home administrators are constrained by provincial legislation and do  not comment on specific cases for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.  

In a 2013 Chronicle Herald story administration of the facility in question asserted that the hiring of a private nurse is seldom necessary, and that the facility received an exemplary status from Accreditation Canada, which looks at nursing care across the country.  

Gaudet’s parents moved to a different facility, where her mother passed away and her father still resides. Things there are a lot better, she tells us.


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  1. Despite the best efforts and good intentions of staff, nursing homes in Nova Scotia, with a few exceptions, are warehouses. That’s certainly all the government funds for and that’s the attitude to people who require such care. After all, many of them don’t vote, they can’t get listened to even if they complain so what’s the harm? It’s going to get a lot worse with the Liberal government’s austerity program in full swing and taking aim at society’s most vulnerable populations.

  2. My mother in law is in long term care. The food is sub par, very few veggies and fruits, so we bring those items. We also do laundry as her clothes had disappeared, and we bring in toiletries. One day we had to bring in toilet paper as none could be found in the facility. I have been there when no staff could be found. Medication times are missed, leaving my mother in law in pain. Much needs to be done. The people who work there are wonderful people but very stretched.

  3. I worked as a care giver for 32 years and loved it. I loved my residents and they loved me.
    I decided to resign last year after watching situations not being dealt with time and time again. Working short and the demands from administration was taking away from the residents care. Over the last ten years or so things have gotten worse it was taking its toll on myself and other staff.
    I have seen the abuse of power that is happening. I have seen concerns fall at deaf door.
    The staff that did voice concerns found them selfs in trouble. The micro managing that is taking place is not for the residents it is to make the home look good.
    We were always prewarned when department of health was coming and made to run around making sure everything looked good before they got there.
    I have always said a resident needs an advocate . I have argued over the fact that I was their advocate, but it always got me in trouble. It was time for me to go. I couldn’t bare watching it no more.

    1. Thank you Kim for being there for the residents,,,,,you do your best and you hope someone will follow in your footsteps,,,,,,God bless the helpless……

  4. Sadly, this is not a unique situation. It is preventable. Under-staffing/under funding is painful for the residents and causes real distress for people working under these conditions. I wonder if Ms. Gaudet moved her parents to a not-for -profit? I applaud her bravery in speaking out.

  5. This is such a sad and unneeded situation. Thanks to our governments who keep taking away from our most vulnerable and invisible population. They are behind closed doors where no one wants to look. One doesn’t realize how deplorable the situations are until one is thrusted into this situation by no choice. Our health care says keep them at home for as long as possible but do not put the funding nor the people into place to do this. The buildings are disgraceful and old, most without even proper showers. Our loved ones have to share rooms and have no personal space or privacy and then told where they may hang a picture or two. Our loved ones have no window views and sit idly around in the so called tv rooms (solarium) watching each other for entertainment. Quality of life !! Mental Well being!! Bathroom scheduling??? Drinks actually given to each person outside the meal time?? One bath per week and this includes hair washing!! Holidays are for staff and their families?? I could go on and on. Yes! Micro management by government and their policies and procedures and budget cuts (with more coming right up) Prime minister’s office stating he doesn’t speak with common citizens and the health minister not willing to meet with families and concerned advocate groups and no where to turn as all departments are regulated and answerable to and are integrated with the Department of Health thou they declare they are there for the residents. Our system is totally broken!! It is in place for the government to look good and not for loved ones to live out their lives with engaged, mental well being and physical care! There are many good and caring people work in this situation and I thank and applaud them!! What is happening to their mental well being with working in such situations? Things haven’t changed actually since the days of the poor houses. This is unacceptable!! We don’t have time to sit around and discuss this any longer… our loved ones are the ones living right now in these conditions. They deserve so much more at this time of their lives!! There may be a few that are exceptions but the majority of long term care in Nova Scotia fall very short. My understanding is that Canada is way down the list for actually quality care of our loved ones. Shame!!!

  6. Awareness by getting on Facebook or anywhere else is great;however;however it won”t even begin to touch, solving the many problems occurring in Long Term Facilities!! People need to ban together and let their voices be heard loud and clear, every which way they can… PROTEST!!.. RESIST!!… GET ENGAGED!!

  7. People need to know that our seniors need to be cared for properly at any facility. I can relate to this story about unsupervised residents as it happend while my mother was a resident in Port Hawkesbury. I brought it to the attention of the administration with no corrective action being taken. I would visit my mother each week day at supper for about 2 hours. Every evening they were left unsupervised once most had finished supper. One evening while they were unsupervised I reached out during a falling incident and hurt my back. I did report it but no follow up was done by the owners of the home. Three months later after repeated requests they did up a very feeble attempt at a report which never stated the reason as unsupervised residents. I even contacted The Department of Health Minister Leo Glavine with a reply letter basically stating that it wasn’t anything the department could do about it. I think our seniors deserve better treatment then what they are getting now.
    These facilities take 85% of the combined income of both spouses even if only one spouse is a resident in long term care. The remaining spouse is left out in the cold with no money to live on themselves. The top rate is set by the government each year and the last number I know was $107/day. The rate is income based and it’s not just the monthly income but the taxable income so as time pass any money saved including investments etc will be decreased. The only thing that can’t be taken is the home as long as it stays in their name but if it’s sold that money (savings) is also used. We’ve been through this and the government doesn’t care about personal circumstances just what is showing as taxable income.
    There are many very caring workers who seem to get lost in the stories that come out. Many personal care workers are very dedicated to the residents and spend their own money to purchase items that are needed. They treat them like family. For anyone with someone in a care facility, you need to be there and you need to have your eyes open to ensure proper care is given. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions after all we may be there one day. As you can tell this is a topic that gets under my skin after seeing it first hand myself.

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