Care home worker accused of assaulting patient, 87, after family installs camera

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A former personal support worker at the Peter D. Clark long-term care home faces an assault charge after a family installed a camera in an 87-year-old resident’s room there.

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They had noticed the elderly woman had bruising that couldn’t be explained, the Ottawa Police Service said Thursday. The family contacted police on March 28 after reviewing the footage.

The person involved in the alleged incident is no longer working at the home, the city’s general manager of community and social services Donna Gray said in an earlier memo to council.

“We are deeply troubled by this and understand how upsetting this situation is for residents, families and staff,” she wrote in the memo, which was distributed to members of city council on April 11. At the time, she said the case had been turned over to police whose elder abuse section investigated.

It is not the first time that police have been called in to investigate at Peter D. Clark after video footage raised concerns about elder abuse against a resident there. It reflects a growing trend of families installing video cameras in long-term care rooms to keep an eye on their loved ones. That trend “exploded” during the pandemic when it was often impossible for families to see their loved ones in person, said Ed Cashman of the Ottawa Health Coalition.

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In 2017, Diana Pepin captured verbal abuse against her 85-year-old mother at Peter D. Clark on a video camera she had installed in her mother’s room.

Among other things, a PSW who was getting her mother ready for bed leaned in and asked: ““Why is it taking you so long to die? They keep feeding you too much food, or what?”

Pepin, a retired nurse, said she couldn’t believe what she was hearing at first. That case was also investigated by police. No criminal charges were laid but several staff members were fired, Pepin said.

When Pepin received an email from the long-term care home telling family members about the recent alleged incident, Pepin said she “broke down crying before I even finished reading it. It just brought back all those feelings again. They have never gone away.”

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Pepin said she was encouraged that management at the home let families know about the alleged incident and recognized that it would be emotionally difficult.

In a memo to residents and family members, home administrator Sarah Dickson and the city’s director of long-term care Dean Lett acknowledged that news of the incident is upsetting for residents, families and staff.

“We understand that this is an extremely troubling time for residents and their families, and the management team in the home is available to support you.”

They encouraged people to contact managers with any concerns or the Distress Centre of Ottawa.

The alleged incident comes at a time of increased stress for residents of long-term care and their families. The pandemic has been — and continues to be — hard on long-term care residents and their families with long periods of isolation for residence and chronic staff shortages.

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Cashman of the Ottawa Health Coalition said he is concerned that the staffing crisis that has reach crisis proportions during the pandemic could mean long-term care homes are cutting corners when it comes to background checks on staff.

Pepin said she would encourage anyone with concerns to install a video camera in their loved ones room for when they aren’t there. And she suggests it should be highly visible to act as a deterrent.

“For me, the cameras aren’t to capture the abuse. They are to prevent it.”

A 25-year-old Ottawa woman appeared in court Wednesday in connection to the assault charge.

Ottawa Police encouraged people to be vigilant about potential elder abuse.

“Ottawa Police recognizes that elderly members of our community are at higher risk for physical abuse, neglect or fraud,” the force said. “If you are a senior and something is happening to you, tell someone you trust.

“Family members, healthcare professionals and caregivers should watch for signs of abuse and contact police if they suspect someone may be a victim.”

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