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Caregiver on a mission: Camille Parent of Peterborough, ON, becomes an accidental advocate for elders in long-term care

Lise Cloutier-Steele, www.ottawacaregiver.com

Earlier this year, Camille Parent of Peterborough, Ontario, installed a hidden camera in his mother’s room at the St. Joseph’s at Fleming long-term care facility where she resides. For a long time, he had suspected that his mother was neglected and abused in his absence, and sadly, the shocking images he captured on video confirmed his suspicions.

It made him sick to his stomach to watch video footage of a female employee roughly handling his 85-year-old mother who suffers from vascular dementia. At one point, a care worker waved a feces-covered cloth in front of his mother’s face in an aggravated manner. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behaviour from a worker in any long-term care facility, and residents like Camille’s mother deserve far better.

If that was the kind of care Mr. Parent’s mother was getting, while he was overseeing her care at the home on a regular basis, he worries about what could happen to those residents who do not have any family or friends to speak out on their behalf.

Mr. Parent filed official complaints with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care as well as The Ombudsman for Ontario, and he submitted a copy of the video to local police. Then he turned to the media for help, because he felt strongly about informing the public about what really goes on in some Ontario long-term care facilities.

Since the release of several media reports about his mom’s situation, he’s been contacted almost daily by individuals with horror stories of elder abuse that they have experienced. He is not alone, and his mother’s experience is not an isolated case.

So Mr. Parent launched a web site – www.ontariocares.org – to give people a place to voice their concerns, and help create awareness about poor conditions in long-term care facilities. His web site is attracting more and more attention, because many caregivers want to be heard, while others would like to see Ministry of Health officials address systemic problems with fair and consistent enforcement of their own regulations, and the provisions of the Long-term Care Homes Act. Doing so would be more beneficial to residents of long-term care facilities than the current practice of reacting with empty promises to the public when media reports uncover yet another crisis in elder care.

The four employees seen on the video abusing and disrespecting Camille Parent’s mother were fired from the Peterborough facility, and the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care conducted an investigation which concluded that abuse did take place. The facility was also forced by the Ministry to close its doors to new admissions for a period of 60 days.

At least some measures were taken by the Ministry, but in addition to these, Parent hoped that the police investigation would result in assault charges. However, the police have recently stated that their investigation did not yield the evidence of criminal intent required to proceed with such charges.

This decision was a disappointment Camille Parent could have done without, and it left him wondering what it will take to get anyone to take serious action if video evidence of his mother in peril is not enough.

Undeterred by the latest developments, Mr. Parent has decided that the best way to improve the lot of the sick and elderly in long-term care, is to form an alliance with people equally determined to turn these facilities into real “homes” — homes in every sense of the word, where “quality care” goes beyond the careful wording of mission statements posted in the lobby of most long-term care institutions.

Camille Parent hopes that his web site will evolve into an organized movement to help change laws to better protect our society’s most vulnerable citizens, lay the ground work for important amendments to the Long-term Care Homes Act to make it easier and safer for caregivers to report justified concerns without fear of reprisal, and eventually eliminate abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities across the country.

Ready to help raise funds for Mr. Parent’s campaign are the producers of The Crowd Funder Show which airs on Buffalo’s Fox Network Channel 29 WUTV. The show’s new season began on September 22, and its mission is to help raise funds for projects deemed worthy by its executive producer, Jordan Whelan, and associate producer, David Hatton – both originally from Ontario. The show is the first of its kind to raise money for worthwhile causes from individuals who contribute via the Internet. For more information on Camille Parent’s upcoming appearance on the show, go to: www.fundrazr.com/campaigns/ebDM6.

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