B.C. woman 'not getting anywhere' in trying to help loved one in care home - InfoNews

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B.C. woman 'not getting anywhere' in trying to help loved one in care home

Al Beyers is fading away as his best friend fights to get into his care home more often to make sure he's getting enough to eat.
Image Credit: Submitted/Angela May
August 05, 2020 - 7:30 AM

“I’m not a person who makes waves but I have to speak up, because I’m not getting anywhere. It’s Al’s life I’m fighting for right now.”

Those anguished words come from Maple Ridge resident Angela May as she talked to iNFOnews.ca about her best friend, Al Beyers. She is 56 and he’s 72.

They lived for years in a shared house in Maple Ridge before he was hospitalized in June 2019 with pneumonia. On July 31, 2019, because of his dementia, he was shifted by Fraser Health to the Oceanside facility, an hour’s drive away in White Rock.

The Fraser Health web site describes Oceanside as a “24-bed, acute-care facility for people over 65 years of age with serious mental illness or age-related psychiatric disorders who may pose a risk to themselves or others.”

“They drugged him and drugged him and drugged him,” May said. “It was just a year of hell. I walked out of there crying every day.”

On her daily visits May made sure he got enough to eat, shaved him and got him up and walking.

March 13 was the last day she was allowed to visit under new COVID-19 guidelines.

That, initially, didn’t stop May from making daily trips to White Rock to wave to Beyers where he sat behind a third floor window.

Then, apparently due to COVID-19 rules, she was ordered to stop.

“I was going for 11 days straight to wave to Albert at the window,” May wrote in an email to Fraser Health. “He would give me a few waves back and a few smiles I could see, and a little singing sometimes I could hear from the sidewalk were I was standing. Seeing him doing those things made me feel so much better because, at least he could see me. He doesn't understand why I am standing there and not sitting in his room with him feeding him and enjoying some music like we always do.

“I couldn't figure out why I wasn't allowed to wave anymore. I was doing something good for someone so I can stay connected to Albert during this terrible time. I really feel I am not doing anything wrong by waving. I am doing everything the government is saying to do.”

She was told, in an email, that not even staff were allowed to walk on the grounds of the facility so she could not be there. But, she was able to walk around to another side of the building where she could see him.

“Because of COVID they’re doing nasty things to me,” May said. “You stop me from waving at a window? This is not even private property. This is public property on the sidewalk and you stop me for three weeks and I have to fight that. And you say it’s nothing against me, it’s the COVID thing?”

After lobbying the facility manager she was able to resume the window visits after three weeks.

Fraser Health Authority didn't respond to a request for comment on the situation, but health authorities typically don't comment on specific cases, citing client confidentiality. 

But, it wasn’t until May that she was told of Beyers' significant weight loss.

When he first went into Oceanside he weighed 71.7 kg. He slowly dropped to about 65 kg by early April.

He quickly lost more weight, dropping almost 10 kg more by early July. That weight loss came despite the fact that, as of May 25, May was allowed to visit Beyers and bring him packaged food.

Al Beyers as he was before being hospitalized last year.
Al Beyers as he was before being hospitalized last year.
Image Credit: Submitted/Angela May

She’s only permitted to visit an hour a day but, during that time, she sees him eat 1,200 to 1,400 calories, she says, showing he still has a strong appetite.

May has checked the records of his feeding habits and learned there were only five days in 18 weeks where Beyers managed to eat three meals that were provided by the facility.

She’s allowed in as an essential visitor for emotional support but is fighting to be declared essential for feeding so she can visit him more days each week and make sure he’s getting enough food.

READ MORE: Return of family visits in Interior long term care homes is 'heart-wrenching' and confusing

Instead of getting extra days, she’s now banned from even phoning in to see how he’s doing or to have window visits.

On July 20 Beyers was moved from Oceanside to the neighbouring Peace Arch Lodge. May was not allowed to see him for his first week then she was told she was no longer allowed to phone the facility. She sees him often enough that window visits are no longer needed, she’s been told.

“I’m so angry,” May said. “I’m his POA (power of attorney). I’m everything and I can’t phone anymore? They’ve cut me off. Only because I’m so caring and on top of their game, knowing what he was eating, what he was doing. They obviously don’t like that because that’s why they’ve blackballed me. These new nurses don’t know me from Adam. They’ve been told not to take any calls from Angela so now I look like a bad person. All I’ve done is care for this person. I don’t understand how they can get away with it.”

She’s been told that, during a three-week period in July Beyers regained 5.5 kg but can see no sign of that when she visits him.

May is so frustrated with the restrictions placed on her physical, phone and window visits — all with the excuse that it’s because of COVID-19 rules – that she felt she had no other alternative than to go to the media and risk further retaliation.

READ MORE: Fear of retaliation keeping people from speaking about issues in B.C.'s long-term care homes

“I used to stand over Al when he was in Oceanside,” May said. “He was in so deep a sleep. I was scared. I would stand over him checking if he was breathing enough. It’s just not right to have them so drugged up like that. To watch them fade.

“Of course they’re going to lose their ability to do anything. They’re so drugged up they can’t feed themselves. They can’t walk. They’re tied to the chair. Of course they’re going to lose it. Well, OK, eventually it’s going to get there but it didn’t have to happen that fast. You took everything away from him.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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