Winnipeg group campaigns for seniors’ advocate in wake of care home COVID-19 ‘nightmare’

Maples Personal Care Home. Revera

A group of Winnipeggers who lost loved ones at the embattled Maples Personal Care Home say they’d like to see the creation of a seniors’ advocate — much like the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth — to help prevent future families from suffering.

The care home, which has since seen lawsuits from families, was the site of a large COVID-19 outbreak that lasted from late October of 2020 through Jan. 12 of this year. The outbreak saw 74 staff members and 157 residents contract the virus, with 56 residents ultimately dying

Eddie Calisto-Tavares, whose 88-year-old father Manuel died at the care home in November, told 680 CJOB that while she was able to quarantine so she could get into the Maples home and personally care for her dad while the outbreak raged, her thoughts go out to families who didn’t have that option.

“What about all of those families that don’t know where to go?” she said. “We need a seniors’ advocate; we need a centralized office where when people are faced with what we faced — they have people that can help them navigate the system and they can advocate for those who can no longer use their voices.”

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Lisa Prost, whose father also died at the Maples home (although not as a result of COVID-19) said despite her best efforts at advocating for her dad, there was only so much she, as a private citizen, could accomplish.

“I was advocating for my dad but it was going through one ear and out the other… management would just say Lisa, our hands are tied, we don’t have enough staff, we don’t have enough people,” Prost said.

“These seniors are not sick and they’re not dying — they need a voice. They need someone who can protect them, somewhere they can speak out, where things can be investigated, where there’s going to be reports and follow-up.

“This is what the kids and youth are getting, which they absolutely need, but our seniors are in the same situation.”

In recognition of Tuesday’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Calisto-Tavares and Prost— along with other members of the Families Voices group, made up of relatives of past and present Maples residents — are launching a purple ribbon campaign to raise awareness.

Purple ribbons will be tied around trees near the Maples Personal Care Home, as well as near the Manitoba Legislature, to highlight what the group says is an essential need for a seniors’ representative.

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“Personal care homes are a home, remember,” said Prost. “It’s not a prison, it’s not a hospital — these are homes for people.”

Click to play video: 'Volunteer task force aims to hold Manitoba government to account for Maples care home deaths'
Volunteer task force aims to hold Manitoba government to account for Maples care home deaths

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