Friends and families of senior citizens are dealing with trespass issues in long-term care facilities

Last year, activists criticized the government’s response to the problems within the health care system, noticing the mistreatment of seniors in long-term care facilities.

Spokesman Steve Buick for the Alberta Health Minister admits there are errors in the system.
“The reality is that a couple of per cent of all patients who go through our health system or really any health system in Canada…will have a preventable error in their care,” Buick said. “And people just don’t appreciate that errors and bad outcomes are part of the business, to an extent.”

“People just don’t understand that it is not realistic to expect a health system to function without problems happening, sometimes serious problems,” said Buick.

Apart from addressing complaints about the care of the elderly in long-term care facilities, there seems to be a trend toward family members and friends being issued bans based on the Trespass to Premises Act.

The Trespass to Premises Act, broader than the Petty Trespass Act, outlaws trespassing to whoever was given notice not to trespass on a premises.

 

Loved ones are banned

Shauna McHarg was banned from visiting her friend Beverley Munroe. Dennis Dupuis was banned from visiting his mother Annie Dupuis.

“It’s the people who care, it’s the family members who are, or friends, or advocates, who attend the facility and are aware of what’s happening – they’re not going to ban the person who attends Sunday afternoon for half an hour. It’s the person who cares and is there,” said Ruth Adria, the chair of the Elder Advocates of Alberta.

Both McHarg and Dupuis did not understand why they were banned or couldn’t believe the reasons for their removal.

“It’s on the statement here, I was being aggressive and verbally abusive with staff,” said Dupuis. According to the statement, Dupuis was standing too close to staff.

Dupuis said, “They gave me all these ridiculous restrictions they applied towards me about visiting my mother and everything else. And what are they trying to prove? What are they doing?”

“And, you know, it’s unfortunate this, and you don’t see it at the time. Because it is a problem you’re trying to get corrected, and what they’re accusing you of makes it even more ridiculous,” said Dupuis.

McHarg said she didn’t understand why she was restricted from seeing her friend Beverley Munro.

“I was still allowed to visit other people, just not Beverley. And it would imply Beverley didn’t want me visiting her. And she was outspoken that this was unfair.”

The reason, according to McHarg, for the restrictions and later the ban from visiting Munro was due to Munro’s complaints about the care facility which was introduced at the Alberta Legislature.

“And so Beverley and her husband and I, we all wrote to the president of Covenant Health, sayingSundance on the Green is a 55 plus life lease care facility located in the S.E. of Calgary. “I’m not aware, at least at Bethany, of there ever being a situation where we’ve had a stranger trespassing,” said Kristen Lawson of Bethany Care Society.

Photo provided by Bethany Care this is unfair. There’s, you know invoking the Trespass to Premise Act would imply that I’m trespassing.”

Later, Munro was moved to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton due to poor health.

“Beverley went to the Royal Alex because she was ill and I was her contact person with the (hospital), with Beverley’s permission because she was her own decision maker,” said McHarg.

“If Beverley clearly said, ‘I want Shauna,’ and the Royal Alex honoured that…. I mean, they were grateful to have an involved person because her husband is an older person and has health problems and he just couldn’t do everything and come to all the meetings and everything. So I was her contact person and if a hospital can honour her wishes, why can’t Covenant Health.”

“She since passed away, unfortunately. And after she passed away, then I got a response from Covenant Health saying, ‘As this matter’s no longer relevant, we’ll close the file,’” said McHarg. But they never answered Beverley’s complaints.

Dupuis was upset by the result of his ban. “The damage is done. I can’t get that time back that I lost with my mother, she’s passed away since then,” said Dupuis. “She was ten days short of her 102 birthday when she passed away.”

“This is what hurts. All that time that I could have been with her, I couldn’t. They had me on a restricted visit. I could only go in a certain area. I had to have somebody bring her out and we could visit there,” said Dupuis.

“I’d like to get this cleared up. But who will do it?”

Still not being heard

According to the Health Quality Council of Alberta’s report from April 2014, Covenant Health is a main link to the Official Administrator and “has a role in providing and/or monitoring continuing care services”.

But Rayne Kuntz, the senior advisor of media relations at Covenant Health did not know what the Trespass to Premises Act was, nor was initially aware of trespassing issues within long-term care facilities.

Kuntz said there’s a difference between restrictions and trespassing, but later wrote in an email “The damage is done. I can’t get that time back that I lost with my mother, she’s passed away since then.”

– Dennis Dupuis, banned from seeing his mother Annie Dupuis  interview, “The language we use is restrictions. Restrictions usually are not indefinite. A date for review is usually part of the restriction. We remain open to working with individuals to come to a resolution that is best for the resident or patient.”

Kuntz said it’s rare to restrict family members from visiting, “except in cases where there are threats to a patient, resident or staff member’s safety. Another example may be if the health of a resident or patient is being compromised. The situations can be very complex, the restricted person may be family, but they are not the agent or guardian of the patient or resident.”

When asked what happens when a person ignores restrictions, Kuntz said, “Well then they’re in breech and they’re asked to please not come at that time. Then they have to have a discussion.”

On the government side, the hope was that the issues of trespass and proper care would be addressed with the implementation of the Alberta Health Advocates Office in April, 2014.

This office was put in place to request inspections and investigations based on the concerns of seniors and their loved ones and “refer seniors concerns and complaints to the appropriate place or places”. Buick said the advocates should have a larger role, but nothing is being done to make this a reality.

“We’d like to see the advocates have more of a role in addressing individual’s concerns rather than just giving them information. That’s just a change that we’ve talked about but haven’t implemented yet.”

Multiple phone calls requesting an interview with the current Senior’s Advocate, Deborah Prowse were not returned.

The Trespass to Premise Act needs limits

The Trespass to Premises Act states, “A trespasser is guilty of an offence whether or not damage was caused.”
“Nothing in this Act extends to a case where the trespasser acted under a fair and reasonable supposition that the trespasser had a right to do the act complained of.”

However, the Trespass to Premises Act is being questioned because friends and family visiting seniors in long-term care facilities are being handed Notices Not to Trespass.

Each notice is up to the individual premises.

“If a person returns to the location where they were notified with trespassing, then the police will become involved,” said Corwin Odland, from the media relations unit of the Calgary Police Department.

Bethany Harvest Hills Care Centre is situated in the N.E. of Calgary. Kristen Lawson, the director of communications and government relations at Bethany Care Society said, “ Our staff are amazing. They’re some of the most amazing people that I’ve had the privilege of ever knowing.”

Photo provided by Bethany CareIf it seems as though that initial Trespassing Ban is unfair or unconstitutional, there is not much that can be done. The review of bans is not effective, said Adria who was also banned.

“Essentially, once you’ve been banned, there is no appeal. There’s nothing. So, I have documents here showing all the conversation and, you know, what was done with me, but so what? It doesn’t help me,” said Adria.

As a result, Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said, “They could be banned for a day, they could be banned for a year, they could be banned forever.”

In the case of Dennis Dupuis, he has been banned from all Alberta Health Service’s facilities across the province.

“Alberta Health Services has the discretionary power to enact the Trespass to Premise Act, based on specific grounds related to unacceptable uses of their property. It is an abuse of Alberta Health“They could be banned for a day, they could be banned for a year, they could be banned forever.”

– Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Public Interest Alberta executive director Services’ discretionary power to permanently prohibit me from all of their facilities across Alberta based on the enactment of the Trespass to Premise Act as I did nothing wrong but advocate that my Mom’s wishes are honoured,” wrote Dupuis in a letter.

Dupuis is still banned from health care facilities in Alberta despite his mother dying in 2012.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s unfounded. You’d think there’d have to be something. These little examples are proof that it’s unfounded. And that it’s still a problem is proof that (they) don’t know what to do to fix it. Unfounded (allegations have) taken on a life of (their) own to the detriment of everyone involved,” said McHarg.

Buick said there’s no plan to make any changes to the issue of banning visitors because, “there’s no general problem with it that we’re aware of. There certainly are instances where visitors have been banned from an individual facility and those instances are very few and far between and as far as we can tell they generally have been…the visitors have been banned for good reason.”

jpankratz@cjournal.ca 

To contact the editors responsible for this story; Jordan Kroschinsky, jkroschinsky@cjournal.ca; Evan Manconi at emanconi@cjournal.ca.