An NDP MPP is calling on the provincial government to intervene at a Niagara Falls retirement home after learning of “deplorable” living conditions at the facility.
Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates issued the call after receiving what he calls a series of “disturbing” photos of a room at Greycliff Manor on Lundy’s Lane, where Chris Gladders chose to end his life last weekend.
The photos show the state of the room when Gladders’ family arrived to say goodbye to him and be with him in his final moments — in them, urine and fecal matter is visible on the floor, along with dark specks on the walls and in the sink.
“None of the floors were cleaned up or anything, you could see clearly where they changed his catheter bag,” said Shawn Gladders, Chris’s brother.
“There was urine on the floor, there were spots where there was feces on the floor … spots where your feet were just sticking. Like, if you stood at his bedside and when you went to walk away, your foot was literally stuck. It was very, very disturbing, for sure.”
Every other time he’d visited Chris, Shawn said he was brought outside the room by a staff member.
“I kick myself today, because I wish I would have walked in there before … I never would have left him there.”
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Chris Gladders, 35, grew up on the east mountain of Hamilton and was diagnosed with Fabry’s disease, an inherited disorder that results from the buildup of a certain type of fat in the body’s cells.
Shawn said the disease eventually “took over” his brother, and got worse during the time he spent at Greycliff.
“He was on a walker and then he lost function of his legs. Basically, he just crippled up. He was having regular strokes. And every time he had a stroke, it kind of just took another little piece of him.”
The decision to have a medically assisted death was one that Chris was adamant about, according to Shawn, and he said he thinks the conditions at Greycliff Manor contributed to his decision.
“I believe, in my heart, that him being in that place played a big toll on his decision. I really do.”
The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) revoked the operating licence at Greycliff, as well as five other homes owned by the Martinos, effective as of June 2021.
Gates said he was alerted about the situation at the Niagara Falls facility by Monique Taylor, the NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, where Gladders formerly lived.
He described the photos he received from the Gladders family as “heartbreaking, disgusting and inhumane,” but said the most devastating photo is one he chose not to release.
“One of the pictures — which hasn’t been released, quite frankly, to the media — was his daughter laying in bed with Chris, with urine all over the bed and feces in the bed. And what’s heartbreaking to me is that that’s the last few moments that she spent with her dad, in those conditions.”
Gates said the province needs to intervene at Greycliff immediately, not wait for another inspection or investigation.
“The minute that we sent those pictures to the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority, they should have been in there — never mind thinking of next steps, never mind waiting,” said Gates. “(Chris) took his life on Saturday. It is now Friday. It’s almost been a week.”
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the RHRA said it’s aware of the recent concerns raised about Greycliff.
“The RHRA is assessing information obtained through the mandatory reporting process in order to determine appropriate next steps, which could include further inquiries and/or inspection,” wrote Phil Norris, manager of communications for the RHRA.
“When it comes to harm or risk of harm to residents, the RHRA will not hesitate to take immediate action to protect their safety and wellbeing. If there is an issue that falls outside of our mandate, we will work with our community partners so that residents get the help that they need.”
A lawyer who has previously represented the Martino family has not responded to a request for comment.
It’s unclear why Gladders was moved to the Niagara retirement home from St. Joseph’s for care last April.
The day before his brother’s death, Shawn said he was told by staff at Greycliff that they were never equipped to care for Chris.
“They said, ‘Your brother should have never been brought here. We don’t have the equipment.’ They didn’t have a Hoyer lift or anything to move him, bathe him, anything. It was just so sad.”
Global News sent an inquiry to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton for any information on why Gladders might have been transferred to the retirement home.
“We want to express our sincere condolences to the family,” a said spokesperson in an email. “When an individual no longer requires hospitalization, we will work with them to help identify the housing options available to them.”
Shawn said he hopes that speaking out about the situation will ensure no one else has the same horrifying realization that he had when he saw how his brother was being cared for in his final moments.
“It might be too late for my brother, but if it can just help one other family or one other person or even one other resident that’s in that place … If my brother’s room looked like that, I can only imagine what maybe some of the other residents’ rooms look like.”