Family details mother's horror story

Bonnie Belec
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Says experience in long-term care has been an uphill battle

Gena Benoit and Carleen Templeman’s mother walked into the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex 16 months ago, but the sisters fear she’ll never walk out of there.

Florence Northcott is a resident of the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex in St. John’s. Her family says they have raised concerns about her care, but no one is listening.

They told The Telegram last week that their mother, who turned 65 in the St. John’s long-term care facility in July, weighed 168 pounds when she was admitted. Templeman said if her mother is 80 pounds now, that’s all she is.

“She’s nothing but a frame. Skin over bone,” said Templeman of her mother,

Florence Northcott.

To make matters worse, Benoit says, the bedsore on her mother’s tailbone, which was the size of a speck of dirt in April, has turned into an open, oozing wound through which the woman’s backbone is clearly visible.

The photos of their mother are shocking and the sisters cry as Benoit thumbs through them.

“That is an ulcer, a bedsore that started in April. She never had bedsores before — bedsores as big around as your fist — and if she was turned proper, if she was taken care of, the bedsores should never happen,” said Benoit, her voice cracking as she fights back tears.

“For someone who was walking before April, to have that on her tailbone … and that’s only part of it. To walk in and see your mother full of dirt with gravy all over her face hours after supper, outdated warm Boost and rotten oranges on her table. Is that right?” she said, raising her voice and becoming angry.

Benoit said the family has since been informed her mother has MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is resistant to a number of antibiotics.

Templeman said they have met with staff at the facility several  times and it’s always the same result — they’ll look into it.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to put a loved one in Hoyles,” says Templeman, visibly frustrated and upset.

“We had a meeting the other day — ‘It’ll be addressed, addressed, addressed.’ That’s all they say, but nothing ever gets done. We have been fighting and meeting, and every meeting we have at the Hoyles, it seems like she keeps getting worse,” she said.

Benoit and Templeman believe staff have labelled the family as being difficult because they have complained about their mother’s medication, about her not being clean, having body odour and being dehydrated.

They said they have talked to the person in charge of resident care, physiotherapy and medical staff, and the response is to move their mother to a different unit.

Their family is not alone.

Ken Kavanagh’s 84-year-old mother is a resident at the facility as well. He spoke to The Telegram last week about what he calls the substandard care his mother is receiving.

His initial outrage was over his mother being fed spaghettios around the same time Health Minister Susan Sullivan announced the government’s pleasure with Eastern Health’s money-saving initiatives while not affecting patient care.

During a news conference last Thursday, Sullivan announced Eastern Health has saved more than $22 million in the first quarter of the 2013-14 fiscal year (to June 30, 2013) through operational improvement initiatives. She said its efforts will also be followed by the other regional health authorities in the province — Central Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Sullivan has told The Telegram the operational savings have nothing to do with the concerns families have expressed about patient care in long-term care facilities.

She did acknowledge that Eastern Health is having issues with staffing.

“The information I found is they have been experiencing challenges recently in terms of requisite numbers of staff on shift, and that is due to leave and some recruitment issues as well,” said the health minister.

Eastern Health says it has about 300 permanent full-time and part-time nursing staff, with about 120 nursing staff on shift daily. This includes registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and personal care attendants.

“Eastern Health does not have a shortage of permanent, full-time workers within long-term care facilities, and a pool of temporary workers to help cover vacation time and planned leave; however, the program does struggle to recruit and retain temporary call-in staff to cover unanticipated leave, such as sick days,” the authority said in an email last week to The Telegram.

Benoit and Templeman said they understand facilities are under stress because they are short-staffed, but residents deserve more respect and care than they are getting.

“She raised four children on her own. My dad died when I was 13. She worked three jobs and struggled to get us through school and get us raised,” Benoit said of her mother. “All she wants is a bit of dignity and respect, and Hoyles got it took from her.”

Benoit and Templeman said their experience with the health-care system began in 2009 when their mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She was 61.

“She was devastated. She was driving and had a job and she gave all that up and became depressed,” said Benoit, thumbing through a binder filled with papers regarding her mother’s medical appointments and health reports.

In March 2011, their mother went to Ontario to stay with their sister because she was afraid of being alone in her house. A year later she returned to St. John’s.

They said throughout this time she was taking medication for Parkinson’s. On the night her mother came back to St. John’s, Benoit said, she was disoriented, hyper and suffering from hallucinations. She said her mother fell down and cut her hand, so they took her to St. Clare’s. Because of her state of mind, the hospital decided to send her to the Waterford Hospital until a bed became available in a long-term care facility.

In June 2012 she was transferred to Hoyles-Escasoni.

Benoit said she walked into the facility and was alert and able to take care of herself, to a point. She said her mother was able to use the bathroom on her own, but staff insisted on making her wear diapers “just in case she didn’t make it,” and now she has to wear them because she can’t get out of bed without help.

Benoit said even when her mother was moved for a third time to a different unit in April, she walked on her own, but her state has been getting progressively worse.

In November 2012 the sisters said they took matters into their own hands to try to figure out why their mother wasn’t getting any better between then and the time she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Templeman said the neurologist told them her mother didn’t have Parkinson’s and started to wean her off the medication.

She said they were told their mother is in the final stages of Lewy body dementia.

According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association website,, symptoms can closely resemble Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and the illness is widely misdiagnosed.

When asked what the family will do next, Benoit’s voice breaks with emotion.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“We’ve been fighting and arguing with the home and the higher-ups. She’s on a list, almost a year now, to be transferred out of that place, which is awful. I don’t know where else we can turn.

“It’s just a total horror story. A year ago something might have changed for her, she might have had a chance, but at this point she’s not going to get any better and we wanted to tell people about her so they will be conscious of what is going on.”

Organizations: The Telegram, Waterford Hospital, Lewy Body Dementia Association

Geographic location: Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Loretta Macdonald
    October 23, 2013 - 21:56

    This link was shared with me last evening. I did not sleep well through the night for thinking about it. I have first-hand knowledge of this issue as my mother has been in a facility that is part of Eastern Health for over four years. My heart goes out to the whole family. Keep fighting, and I will keep your mother in my prayers.

  • MIKE
    October 20, 2013 - 00:54

    It is very hard for me to read the many SAD Stories written; especially now this time of year when it gets dark and dismal so early. This can also make you depressed too. You ask yourself why so many older people must suffer so much. (Also younger people) Many of them believe in GOD for sure, but he surely doesn't help them. Only human beings can help them. What did the older sick people do to get punished like that and now have to SUFFER so much? It surely leaves one thinking.

  • jackie andrews
    October 19, 2013 - 09:35

    your story is so sad and this kind of treatment is happening in alot long term care homes.My mom was in the rufus ginchard home for nine years and I have to say she was taken care of really good she was confined to her most of the time and especially the last year or so and she never had a bedsore .We visited her many times over the years and she was always clean and taken care of .This just my families experience with the home in port au choix, I know theres so many horror stories out there ,praying everything will work out for your mom and your family.

  • Jeff
    October 18, 2013 - 15:46

    I think it's fair to say that enough light has been shed on the horrific stories regarding this place I hope I or anyone in my family will call home. The issues I have read in the news are just the tip of the iceberg I bet. So, with all in the inhumane things I have heard, and the oh so splendid news we also hear at the the same time about the millions of dollars the province will take in from the new oil announcements, what is Kathy and her crew going to do about this?? I am a peaceful man, but I assure you i'd be doing alot more than holding back tears if I had to tell my story about anybody in my family. This is absolutley rediculous and the government we have right now should be held accountable. 960 jobs being abolished and $86 million saved and this poor woman is being treated this way. Enough is enough I say. My god!!!

  • candy
    October 17, 2013 - 15:39

    Dignity and respect??? And who put this picture here for public display? I wonder what this lady would say if she knew it was here for everyone to see.....

  • kathy clarke
    October 17, 2013 - 01:37

    this happens all over canada we have pca 's , lpn's and r.n. 's who are run ragged and i hate to say this but thats what happens when we put our love ones into homes even though they are there members of the family should make time to visit love ones each day and once workers are aware you have issues they try their best im sure to fix them

  • Rhonda
    October 16, 2013 - 23:02

    Call your MHA. They will help.

  • Agnes Nash
    October 16, 2013 - 22:04

    I worked with Florence a few years back on Jensen Camp Rd, she is a gentle soul, a great friend. I was so sad to see this article and beyond shocked, couldn't believe it. The Hoyles Escasoni should be ashamed of there selves, horrible, absolutely horrible to let people go down hill like this. Take care and I hope I'll get to see Florence again.

  • Leola Haley
    October 16, 2013 - 21:18

    I feel for this family as I know the stress of having a loved one who has Lewy Body Dementia but I also have to say that it is a disease with a quick progression and is not resposive to many medications. My grandmother has the disease and is also in a home as she has lost the ability to walk due to to the atrophy of both her muscles and her brain. I'm sorry that their mother has this but people have to realize that nursing staff can care for the patient but can not stop the progression of a disease. No matter where the patient lives or whether they have the best care that money can offer there is no "getting better" from Lewy Body's. Nanny was misdiagnosed as well and was on all of the Parkinson's drugs which did her way more harm than good. She has lost weight even though the nursing staff feed her when she is unable to do it herself. Lack of nutrition is a big factor that contributes to pressure sores. I'm not saying that the facts stated in the article are not accurate but I am passing along information about this disease so people are able to understand that a lot of the things happening are not from neglect from nursing staff. Unfortunately, people with Lewy Body dementia have a very difficult road to travel and it is very difficult for families to accept that their loved one is deteriorating before their eyes. Our family struggles daily with the change in Nanny but I can honestly say that the staff does whatever they can for her.

  • Jean Hurley
    October 16, 2013 - 19:59

    My heart breaks for your family and your Mother.I know from experience just how angry and painful this situation is for you.I found that if you or a family member at not there at meal time the patient don't get their meal while its still warm.Its left there on the tray until someone gets around to feeding them as fast as the can.Some caregivers are really good but there are some that don't give a hoot.It only a job and an annoyance to them.My Mom lived to be 101 years old.God love her.May God Bless your mother and your family.Dont give up fighting for her.

  • Proud HEC-LPN
    October 16, 2013 - 18:02

    The stories are all one sides. Not one story talks about the extras we do Not one talks bout holding a hand, worrying and staying with someone after hours as they pass on when no family is there because their flight home was delayed. Not one story talks about us spending our own money to provide simple luxuries like nice smelling body wash, and how great it makes you feel when a grown man says "thanks that bath made me feel human again". Not one story tells about workers bring in their own musical instruments and playing for the residents. Not one tells about making a candy and paper bouquet with a grown man out if candy, post it notes and tongue depressors and other office supplies just so he could give his wife valentine flowers. And then seeing her cry tears of joy because it was their first valentines separated and she didn't expect to get flowers that year. No one bothers to ask about the good times that are provided on a daily basis. Not one story!

  • Anon
    October 16, 2013 - 17:38

    I'm not saying Eastern is doing a stellar job or anything but if they believe such dangerously health issues are caused directly by Hoyles... why is she still there, she raised 4 kids on her own but none of them are willing to take her on full time? or put her into private care until she can be placed somewhere else. I'm not saying everyone can handle someone with full time care, but they even state when she entered she was able to do things for her self. Pulling together funds for part time home care or trying to get government funding in home care seem like a better solution then constant complaints while their mother deteriorates.... Overall Eastern Health should put a higher standard of care in place but I think the children should take some responsibility for the well being of their mother, just because she is in a Long term care facility doesn't mean shes not their problem

  • Heather George
    October 16, 2013 - 15:00

    Close that dump down. What I would like to know how many LPN's are there? How many PCA's? Have no quams with PCA's other then the fact they do not receive the training they need for this work. Look into it and see what training they get, and this is not their fault.

  • Allan
    October 16, 2013 - 13:54

    My mother was a nursing supervisor at Hoyles for 10 years..she is turning over in her grave right now. This is bloody outragous!!! This is what happens when you try and run health care like a business, the bean counters take over and to hell with the patients.

  • B
    October 16, 2013 - 13:08

    When our Mom was in their they labelled us as an 'angry family'. For someone to label a family means the head staff running that place are incompetent so they lay blame on the family who only want the best for their relatives. They have not got a clue on how to work with the family to make it better for their relatives. It is totally discussing.

  • Andrew
    October 16, 2013 - 12:54

    My mother died due to complications from Lewy Body Dementia. She spent the last two years of her life at Hoyles Escasoni. She was visited almost daily by myself, my sister or my dad. Our mother deteriorated much like the lady mentioned here. It was because of the horrible horrible disease,NOT because of the care given by some of the most caring people I have ever met! I'm sorry to say that no matter how great this poor woman's care could be, the rapid deterioration is going to happen. If an understanding of Lewy Body Dementia was known then this story would never appear on the from page of this newspaper. It makes me a bit angry really!!

  • Tom
    October 16, 2013 - 12:22

    I read this story with great interest As I am recently retired from Hoyles and I can tell you I have seen a lot of sores and have helped a lot get better. For legal reasons one will never hear the other side. I think if the lady lost so much weight the body would not have the physical means to cure itself. Would Lewy body be a reason for weight loss? I really don't think its fair to place the blame on health care workers. If there is significant loss bed sores will not heel because of malnourishment . there are several factors I am sure that have caused this lady's decline in her health And the least is health care workers

  • Bill Smith
    Bill Smith
    October 16, 2013 - 12:19

    My grandmother passed away in hospital two years ago while she was waiting on a bed at one of these "long-term care homes". She waited months and months, apparently only to be treated less than human in one of these homes. In hindsight, it was probably better she never lived to see the inside of one of these homes, at least she was spared that indignity. God bless her, and God bless your mother too and all the others who have to live like this, they deserve much better!

  • Jay Babstock
    October 16, 2013 - 11:50

    This is shameful and I can tell from first hand experience in facilities in St. John's that it is not just Hoyles that have subpar care and staffing. After being out of province and seeing how staffing levels are maintained, how problematic diseases (MRSA, c. difficule, etc.) are dealt with and how concerns of family members and patients are dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner, it is clear that our health care system is sadly lacking. Unacceptable for a "have" province. I wish someone would make this an election issue. Perhaps I will.

  • Cs
    October 16, 2013 - 11:49

    Imagine a child: - being left in a bed for 16 or more hours - being left in a soiled diaper for 3-4 hours - having their food waiting just out of reach until someone comes to feed them - not being properly bathed or provided with clean clothes - being fed "filler" food that has no nutritional value Now replace "child" with "senior" who is unable to care for themselves! Neglect is neglect no matter what stage of life and all deserve the right to dignity.

  • Gerri
    October 16, 2013 - 11:36

    And this is what we elect our government for? WE...the people who are likely to end up in this facility sometime in the future...will be treated the same way unless we take a stand as a 'people' and make it known that we will put up with this kind of treatment of a human being. It's utterly disgraceful and those in a position to do something about it are turning a blind eye.. to save money....well remember's OUR money they are using and abusing....we work for many years in our lifetime trying to make a decent life for our families and ourselves, this is some way to end in a facility (that is supposed to be helping make our last days on earth as comfortable and dignified as possible) where people like Ms Northcott and Ms Kavanagh are treated as if they are a burden...and without any dignity. The blame for the treatment of these women lies squarely on the shoulders of our government...the people we elected to look out for our best care being the MOST important but the most neglected. Hire enough people in these facilities so that the staff are not exhausted from being shorthanded and working overtime and double shifts. There is clearly not enough staff to take care of people in a manner they are entitled to be taken care of. Let's send a message to our government that this situation is not could be any one of us (or our loved ones) in this situation at any given time.

  • EDfromRED
    October 16, 2013 - 11:20

    The PC's are making NL a nightmare for seniors. If a PC Minister or a Nalcor exec stubbed their toe they'd be given First Class treatment, poor seniors are left to suffer in misery, poverty and despair. Next thing they'll close the seniors homes and open workhouses. Funny how the rest of Canada seems to be gradually improving while society here is going back to the Dark Ages.

  • don't stand back and accept it!!!
    October 16, 2013 - 10:05

    i'm a health care provider, and if i were the family members, i'd being suing for negligence. no way is this "care" acceptable- it is harming patients' quality of life, increasing medical problems and costs. make them take notice and be held accountable. it's 100% wrong what has happened to this poor lady, and many other people. fight it.

  • Vulnerable Populations
    October 16, 2013 - 08:35

    So glad that people are coming forward with their stories. Nursing homes need to be closely monitored regarding staffing levels and patient care. Unbeknownst, many seniors are placed in these facilities waiting to die -- if you have your wits about you, you're safe; but if not; you may as well be on death row. Family members often fear speaking out concerned that their loved one will suffer at the hands of those providing care --- not in the way of violence, but being left in their beds, unattended, left in soiled attends, not fed. All that said, there are many many great staff in nursing homes --- just not enough to do the work that needs to be done. One assumes the most vulnerable are being cared for --- not possible if resources aren't in place. Next time you visit a home, ask yourself --- WOULD I WANT TO BE HERE?

  • s
    October 16, 2013 - 08:31


  • Jean
    October 16, 2013 - 08:07

    This is so very sad !! I wonder how much of this sort of thing goes on but is never publicized. Hats off to the family for being brave enough to go public with their story. My heart goes out to you, it really does !! God Bless you !!

  • Wenmar
    October 16, 2013 - 06:39

    I'm sorry for your troubles. If I put a picture of my mother on the front page of the Telegram at her worst, she would haunt me for the rest of my life!

  • R Adams
    October 16, 2013 - 06:23

    If a mother father or family member has to go in a home care facility and a family member can visit every day to care for them and feed them etc. the person will of course be given more attention and care by the staff also. If they know the family is going to show up on a regular basis this will keep them on thier toes.Other then that you are out of luck. Many times this is not possible I know and it is sad.Some of the staff are caring people but the good ones can not do it all and others just do not care.They just turn cold after so long in this job. I have seen it to the point of disrespect.It is so sad and I feel for the family. We are all going to be in that situation possibly sooner or later even the staff.What goes around comes around. Remember KARMA is powerful.Sorry to hear about your Mom.