Family says mother’s death caused by ‘negligence’ at Sask. care home

Watch above: The family of a woman who died in a Saskatoon care home believes short staffing and a lack of communication helped lead to her death. As Mike McKinnon reports they’re telling the story with hopes the Saskatchewan government will put more resources into seniors homes.

REGINA – The family of an elderly woman who died in a Saskatchewan long-term care home believes short-staffing and a lack of communication helped lead to her death.

Lois Rein, 98, was a resident at Circle Drive Special Care Home in Saskatoon. She died on March 20, eight days after falling out of a medi-chair, causing a broken leg that was later diagnosed as an embedded femur fracture.

“She was in so much pain,” said Rein’s daughter, Judy Hofer, on the phone from Edmonton.

Hofer said the fall happened because her mother’s chair was left in a “leaned-forward” position for mealtime, but when the meal was over, the chair was not reclined back to its natural position. She believes a couple of hours passed before Rein was discovered on the floor and the family was contacted.

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“In our opinion, it’s negligence.”

Rein was a resident of at Circle Drive Special Care Home in Saskatoon when she died on Mar. 20.
Rein was a resident of at Circle Drive Special Care Home in Saskatoon when she died on Mar. 20. Devin Sauer / Global News

Rein began living in a different Saskatoon seniors’ home in 2008. Hofer said, even at the time, the family often heard care aides remark that they were understaffed.

“The workers are just dashing, literally, from room-to-room trying to attend to needs,” Hofer said.

Minimum standards

Hofer wants the Saskatchewan government to improve the ratio of care aides-to-residents in long-term care facilities.

Opposition NDP leader Cam Broten raised the issue in Tuesday’s question period at the legislature. Broten said the family’s complaints follow a common theme.

“Chief among them is a lack of staffing, a lack of proper accountability and a lack of proper communication,” he said.

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Rein’s story follows several similar ones this legislative session. Families have come forward with tales of neglect in long-term care and care aides have shared their worries about being unable to attend to the needs of all residents.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan argued that a seniors bill of rights does exist in care homes, but suggested they’re not well-known or visible enough in all facilities.

“I also want to ensure, especially for new residents moving into facilities, that they’re given a copy of that,” Duncan said. “That may not happen all the time.”

READ MORE: Medical students pushing Sask. seniors care issues

Duncan also addressed a “culture” of families scared to come forward about problems in long-term care, saying it’s something that needs to change and that responsibility for that falls with staff in the health system.

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“If we don’t know what’s going on, we can’t measure it. If we can’t measure it, we can’t change it.”

The ombudsman is expected to provide recommendations this spring following a lengthy investigation into complaints about Saskatchewan seniors’ homes.