UPDATED: Investigation complete after dementia patient died eating laundry detergent pods

REGINA – A Saskatchewan man suffering from dementia died in March after he found and ate three laundry detergent pods, according to a former care aide and the Opposition NDP.

NDP leader Cam Broten shared stories from Eunice Blanchard in question period Wednesday. Blanchard retired from Moose Jaw’s Providence Place in December 2014 after 34 years as a care aide.

Blanchard keeps contact with staff and residents at Providence Place, and said short-staffing has resulted in dangerous situations for residents.

“I think it’s horrible,” Blanchard said. “Our elderly at Providence Place deserve better than what they’re getting.”

She believes the victim was allowed to wander, unsupervised, to a different unit of the facility.

“These are the types of terrible situations we need to pay close attention to.”

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Health Minister Dustin Duncan responded, saying the government is aware of the incident and an investigation by Five Hills Health Region (FHHR).

“These are the types of terrible situations we need to pay close attention to and look at what the findings of an investigation have to say.”

Investigation into the man’s death wrapped up Wednesday morning, according to an FHHR spokesperon, who said recommendations will likely focus on controlling access to detergents and dangerous substances in laundry facilities.

The government said the man died on Mar. 20; it was filed as a critical incident on Mar. 24.

Staffing levels

Families have been told not to complain about staffing ratios as low as one care aide to 32 residents with dementia, Blanchard said, citing examples of residents missing baths or not being woken up in the morning because care aides don’t have time.

“Often the staff are leaving crying. They’re overworked. They’re drained. They’re burnt out.”

Duncan disputed that, saying there is no threat to resident-family council meetings and that they became mandatory under the Saskatchewan Party government.

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Broten accused the government of brushing off concerns about what he calls a crisis in seniors care.

“(Blanchard) deserves more respect than what her concerns received from this government today,” Broten said. “The seniors (at Providence Place) deserve a lot more than what they got today.”

Duncan said staffing levels at Providence Place have increased by nine per cent since 2007, while the number of beds has remained the same.

Providence Place is made up of four seniors care wings and a dementia care unit.

Results of an ombudsman investigation into neglect at Saskatchewan long-term care facilities are expected this spring.

With files from Global’s Whitney Stinson