knew something was wrong with her aunt but wasn’t exactly sure what.
elderly woman – a resident of a Chatham long-term care home at the time –
seemed depressed and withdrawn, even though she was normally chatty.
“She wouldn’t even
make eye contact,” said Deb (the Daily News is withholding her last name to
protect the identity of her late relative).
was not the aunt I was used to seeing. And at that point, I was in there easily
four times a week. I knew there was something not right.”
was at work when she received a call from a staff member at Copper Terrace. She
was told there had been an incident involving her aunt but says she was urged
not to worry. Her aunt, the personal support worker said, was fine.
the meeting we asked for and attended later that day, the senior nurse admin
read a line or two off the computer and they immediately didn’t correlate with
what I had been told by the PSW early that morning,” Deb said.
reached out to the ministry right after the meeting,” she added, noting she
believed she hadn’t been told the whole story.
claims her aunt had been sexually assaulted by another resident of Copper
Terrace in October 2016 – an assault that wasn’t handled properly nor reported
not considered a criminal matter due to the other resident’s medical issues and
state of mind, a civil settlement was eventually reached with the care home
late last year. The home had denied any wrongdoing in a legal statement of
Ministry of Long-Term Care also conducted an inspection, ultimately issuing a
number of orders and requesting voluntary plans of correction.
According to the
legal statement of claim filed as part of the original lawsuit, Deb’s aunt
suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and short-term memory loss.
was also in poor physical health and required a wheelchair,” the statement
read. “(An) employee of the defendants entered the plaintiff’s room to find a
male resident naked and in the plaintiff’s bed with her. His hands were under
the blankets and he was touching the plaintiff.”
plaintiff, who was 89 years old at the time, reportedly could not call for help
due to her physical and cognitive disabilities.
employee who found the perpetrator in the plaintiff’s bed required assistance
in order to move him. Instead of using the ‘call’ button, the employee left the
male resident in the bed with the plaintiff to find another employee who could
assist her, permitting the assault to continue.
plaintiff has suffered physical, mental, psychological and emotional stress,
shock and suffering,” the claim added.
the statement of defence, the home denied “each and every allegation in the
statement (of) claim and put the plaintiff to the strict proof thereof.”
also maintained the defendants “acted reasonably in the treatment and care
provided to the plaintiff and in accordance with accepted standards at all
According to a
ministry inspection report, which involved interviews with staff and a review
of records, the home failed to ensure compliance with the home’s written policy
concerning zero tolerance of abuse and neglect of residents.
The policy requiring
staff to immediately report alleged abuse to management, inform the resident’s
representative of the investigation’s status, notify police and the ministry,
and document and provide “comprehensive review of the competency of residents
involved, past history and perceived risk” was not followed.
inspection report indicated that staff at the home were of the view “there was
no risk to the resident” and that there was no abuse.
addition, the home was deemed to have failed to ensure that behavioural
triggers were identified, strategies were implemented, and that assessments,
reassessments and responses were documented.
clinical record showed the offending resident “had a history of these specific
responsive behaviours prior to the incident, that the assessment section of the
electronic documentation system included no behavioural assessments, and that
the plan of care did not include these responsive behaviours.”
home was requested to prepare a written plan of correction to ensure the
“appropriate police force is immediately notified of any alleged, suspected or
witnessed incident of abuse or neglect of a resident that the licensee suspects
may constitute a criminal offence, to be implemented voluntarily.”
were also required to prepare a plan to ensure anyone who has “reasonable
grounds” to suspect abuse of a resident by anyone – or neglect of a resident by
the home or staff that resulted in harm or a risk of harm – immediately
reported this to the director.
Mary Raithby, CEO of
Apans Health Services, which operates Copper Terrace, said she couldn’t discuss
the specifics of the alleged sexual assault due to privacy and confidentiality.
take each inspection report seriously and our team at Copper Terrace
successfully implemented improvements to address the items noted in our
inspection report,” she said in an email. “Resident-to-resident interactions in
long-term care are often challenging and can be unpredictable.
of our staff members are focused on providing quality care for our residents
and work extremely hard within a sector that is very demanding.”
statement, the Ministry of Long-Term Care also said it couldn’t comment on
individual situations, but stressed any abuse or neglect of vulnerable seniors
Ministry of Long-Term Care is committed to ensuring that Ontarians in long-term
care homes live in a safe and secure environment,” the statement read.
ministry conducts an immediate inspection if we receive information that there
is serious harm, or significant risk of serious harm, to a resident. There are
numerous provisions in the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 that are designed to
ensure residents are protected from abuse, neglect or harm. All homes are
required to have measures in place to protect residents from serious harm or
risk of harm.
on the circumstances and the information available, ministry inspectors may
notify the police of any alleged, suspected or witnessed incident of abuse or
neglect of a resident in a long-term care home that may constitute a criminal
offence. The police would independently determine whether an investigation is
The ministry added
that transparency related to inspections of facilities is crucial, so finalized
reports are uploaded to a public website.
executive director of the Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, said
sexual assaults within long-term care homes aren’t uncommon in the province.
and administration have tried to educate themselves,” she said. “But even
before COVID, it wasn’t always possible for that to happen.”
said the centre will offer training about dealing with sexual abuse to any
organization that asks.
we’re glad to do that whenever we can,” she said. “If long-term care
administrators wanted to have virtual training, that’s the way it is right now.
They’re welcome to call.”
for the grey areas, or when to contact police, Schryer said homes “provide a
service. Police are the investigators.”
there is an allegation, I think that there is a responsibility to make the
loved one resides in a home, Schryer said relatives and other caregivers should
look out for changes in behaviour.
of being alone. If they’ve been happy at the long-term care home and are
suddenly afraid to be left there … those are certainly signs that something has
gone amiss,” she said.
these days of COVID, it’s very difficult because so many folks are suffering in
many ways. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that sexual abuse is occurring, but
they might even vocalize that something is wrong.”
concerned relatives can reach out to her organization.
someone is thinking, ‘I don’t know, with my mom or my dad, something’s going
on,’ of course we’ll talk to them,” she said.
addition to residents, she said staff themselves can be sexually assaulted in
respect and education key, she believes there’s still a long way to go for
improved prevention and to properly support these workers.
workers have not been respected,” she said. “Sometimes workers have been told,
‘Oh, he didn’t know what he was doing.’
the most part, I do feel that when things have happened, there has been an
effort made to understand and deal with such problems. But the reality is, that
hasn’t happened 100 per cent of the time.”
institutions try to deal with matters internally, it often “leads to more
problems than less,” said Rob Talach, a partner with Beckett Personal Injury
Lawyers, who represented Deb’s family.
for those in the family and on the receiving end, these are very troubling. It
goes to the core of safety and security, which is a basic fundamental need for
these residents … in addition to being fed and housed and a roof over their
called it fortunate that his client’s late aunt had a supportive family to
advocate for her, adding that not every resident does.
couldn’t comment on the settlement that was reached, but said, “all I can say
was the action was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”
His firm has also
been dealing with similar cases in other cities.
seeing this pattern of somebody who maybe shouldn’t be in that level of home
anymore,” he said. “The victims aren’t fully heard and the perpetrators’
actions are often dismissed.”
Canada’s aging population, Talach believes society in general is currently at
the “infantile stage of having adequate responses” to the situation.
is going to be a tsunami as our baby boomers start to hit the homes,” he said.
“It’s just bound to happen more.”
aunt, who later resided at Riverview Gardens, died last year. Deb said she
waited to come forward to tell her story because of the ongoing pandemic.
was not able to speak for herself,” Deb said. “That really was my main goal.
certainly don’t believe for a minute that it only happens here.”
survivor herself, she said her aunt’s alleged sexual assault was something that
affected her deeply.
at that point she could feel embarrassed, I have no doubt she was feeling
embarrassed. She was confused,” she said.
said her main concern was that she believes home administrators weren’t honest
with the family about what really happened.
were certainly big advocates of the care that she seemed to be getting there
from the staff. They were always very friendly, very accommodating,” she said.
believes there needs to be more proactive enforcement – “not to trip them up”
but to make sure policies are being adhered to, or to check if homes are
slipping in a given area.
job’s difficult enough. We understood too, they can’t be everywhere,” she said.
“They’re overworked, understaffed, underpaid.”
Published on August 6, 2021