Seniors’ home serves up spaghettios

Son of Hoyles Escasoni resident concerned by food, care quality

Bonnie Belec
Published on October 5, 2013
Elizabeth Kavanagh has a meal of spaghettios at the Hoyles Escasoni seniors’ home recently. — Submitted photo

Spaghettios isn’t just for kids anymore.    
The childhood staple has made its way onto the menu of at least one long-term care facility in St. John’s.

Ken Kavanagh’s 84-year-old mother, Elizabeth, is a resident of Hoyles Escasoni. He told The Telegram Friday he couldn’t believe she was actually fed the canned food as a meal until he saw it with his own eyes.

“Here’s all these concerns about salt content. I wouldn’t feed canned spaghettios to my kids, let alone seniors who are constantly worrying about high salt content,” he said.

“But it’s not just about the food. That was something else that came up yesterday, when another family member was there and noticed they were being fed spaghettios,” Kavanagh said.

The eldest of 14 children, he said it was hearing Health Minister Susan Sullivan on the news Thursday talking about how Eastern Health is saving money through a series of initiatives while not affecting patient care that got his emotions stirred up.

“That is absolute bull,” he said. “With all due respect to her, the talk about this implementation of policies that have saved grandiose amount of dollars and have been put through seamlessly — she’s out of touch. I can vouch that it is affecting patient care and I’m only seeing two or three things,” he said.

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 and its efforts will be followed by the other regional health authorities in the province — Central Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health, Sullivan announced Thursday.

She told The Telegram Friday afternoon, however, that has nothing to do with complaints about the food and patient care.

“My concern is there seems to be accusations that this was tied to announcements we made about the operational improvement process yesterday and I can assure you they are not, and this really and truly has nothing to do with the improvement plans whatsoever,” Sullivan said.

“So because these two issues came to light yesterday people are drawing the line from one to the other and in fact there is no connection,” she said.

Kavanagh said last week he was on his way out of town and dropped in to see his mother before he left. He said the place looked like a ghost town.

He said it was around 11 a.m. and 70 to 80 per cent of the residents were still in bed, including his mother.

“My sister went in 11:45 and our mother was finally out of bed,” Kavanagh said.

“I want to make this very clear, that this is by no means a reprimand of the staff —  this is hard work that they do, and very important work — this is about the impact of policy. Some type of policy of no replacements when a person calls in sick so they were short staffed,” he said.

Kavanagh said he’s often visited his mother in the morning and sometimes the residents are up and staff are running around, but other times they’re not taken out of bed after being put to bed at 8 p.m. at night, bathed or dressed.

“So yeah they’re saving some money, but this is starting to border on maltreatment. My mom and other residents are being mistreated and somebody has to take responsibility for it,” he said.

Kavanagh said the decision to put his mother in long-term care was a heart-wrenching one, but the family agreed she needed special care.

“People refer to dementia as a long goodbye,” he said. “It’s hard enough for a family to go through, to walk in to see mom sometimes and not be sure if she knows you, but to see her in the condition she’s in now is absolutely horrendous and it is not fair,” he said.

Kavanagh and his family are so upset about the conditions at Hoyles Escasoni he said he called Sullivan’s office Friday morning.

He said he didn’t speak to her, but would love the chance to.

“I’m willing to go meet with her and I challenge her to explain to me why my mother would be in bed at quarter to 12 on more than one occasion, and I won’t describe the condition I found her in out of respect for my mother,” he said.

When asked about the Kavanagh’s concerns regarding staffing and the amount of time his mother has been left in bed, Sullivan said each health authority has its own policies on staffing as well as menu plans, but she was told Eastern Health is having some recruitment issues.

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

“Eastern Health has told me they are working at trying to resolve that issue,” Sullivan said.

Kavanagh said he understands the homes and government have staffing issues to deal with, but it shouldn’t be on the backs of residents.

“What about dignity and respect? These are the some of the most vulnerable people in our society and government is instituting a policy to save money. If this is the affect of policy then someone has to rewrite the policy and look at what is being implemented,” he said.

Kavanagh said its time for the minister and government to have a look at their policies and the people they are writing the policies for.

“It’s time to get down to Earth and see on the ground how some of these policies are impacting patient care. They are not seamless. They are not without impact. They are hurting people and it’s not fair. It’s not just my mom, that’s my main concern, but there are other peoples’ moms there, too, and dads. She’s got to visit some of these places and see how her department and government policies are really and truly impacting people,” he said.

Regarding the choice of food long-term care facilities provide for residents, Sullivan said again, each health authority has its own policies, however they all follow Canada’s Food Guide.

She said she was told Hoyles Escasoni operates on a three-week menu plan with a main meal provided at lunch and a lighter fare for supper with two choices for all diet types. She said modifications are made regularly based on preference as well as seasonal variations.

Sullivan said on the day in question spaghettios was the second choice while soup and sandwich was the main.

Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski said the authority does hear concerns periodically from residents and/or their family members about the level of care provided and the quality of food.

“The level of care provided to residents in long-term care facilities is based on national standards of nursing care,” she said in a news release. “However, we have been experiencing a challenge recently in ensuring that we do have the required number of staff on a shift due to leave and recruitment issues which we are trying to address.”

Kaminski said when the menu plan is developed, the whole daily menu is considered to ensure nutritional value.

 “All complaints are responded to on an individual basis and Eastern Health does make every effort, especially with our long-term care residents, to ensure the inclusion of family members in the care being provided,” she said.

“Our long-term care facilities are our residents home and we want to ensure they receive safe and quality care and are comfortable. We work with the family to address their concerns.”