Kelowna woman refuses to give up on investigation into mother's care in home | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna woman refuses to give up on investigation into mother's care in home

This is Terry Ambler while still living in the Sun Pointe Village assisted living facility.
Image Credit: Submitted/Bev Ambler
June 23, 2021 - 6:30 AM

As if it wasn’t enough for Bev Ambler to give up her job as a care aid in order to rescue her mom from a care home during COVID, now she’s being stymied in her efforts to discover why no one told her what really happened in that home.

Terry Ambler was living in an assisted living facility in Kelowna called Sun Pointe Village before COVID hit in the spring of 2020. That home is run by Baptist Housing. Bev Ambler worked as a long term care aid in another Baptist Housing facility.

Bev took her mother home in July 2020. By then, Bev had already filed a complaint with the Assisted Living Registry, part of the Ministry of Health, about her mother’s care leading up to her rescue.

Terry died just before Christmas.

READ MORE: B.C. care aide forced to quit to care for her own mother after steep decline under COVID lockdown

Bev’s complaint was ruled “unsubstantiated” in November, forcing her to go through a long freedom of information process to get the documents she believes point to neglect. Despite the new information, she’s still waiting to see if the complaint will be reviewed.

“If I hadn’t gone for the Freedom of Information request, I never would have known how much my mom suffered,” Ambler told iNFOnews.ca. “How many others has this happened to and why isn’t the government looking at this when it directly affects visitation rights for residents?”

She believes this is a clear case for government intervention and the creation of essential visitor legislation.

“Mom's the one who taught me to never give up and now that I found out how much she suffered I'm more determined than ever that no one in a 'care' facility will ever have to experience what she did,” Bev said.

Terry moved into the assisted care facility about five years ago. Bev chose Sun Pointe because she was so happy with her employer that she felt it was the best facility in Kelowna.

In November 2019, Terry got her annual assessment from health authorities and was deemed suitable to continue living in assisted care for another year, although there was a suggestion to keep an eye on things in case she deteriorated over time.

When COVID-19 hit last spring, Bev and her sister were considered essential visitors and made sure Terry ate properly.

That changed in April when their essential visitor status was taken away as the facility operator decided staff could adequately care for Terry.

That turned out not to be the case, as far as Bev is concerned.

Over a six-week period, Bev kept in regular contact with staff and the manager.

“During that six weeks, I was told mom was fine by the manager,” Bev said. “The care aids had been reporting to the manager that mom was weak, unable to stand or walk, perspiring, shortness of breath more than usual, laboured breathing, unresponsive and they weighed her. They, meaning the manager, knew how crucial it was to keep mom’s weight up.”

Once weighing in at 100 pounds, Terry declined to 71 pounds by late May. Staff did finally weigh her on a Wednesday but Bev was not told how much Terry had lost until the Friday.

“In all the freedom of information that I received so far, they did not inform her doctor or her community care nurse,” Bev sai.d “They literally left her laying there for three days knowing she was 71 pounds.”

Bev was finally allowed back in to help her mother and Terry gained weight before moving to Bev’s home in July. But Terry never regained her mental agility, joy for political debating or her spirit.

After receiving notice last November that her complaint had been rejected, Bev filed an appeal but was told she had to file freedom of information requests in order to get details of her mother’s care from Sun Pointe and to get the full Assisted Living Registry investigation.

What she learned about her mother’s condition in the spring was bad enough. What she learned about how the investigation was conducted was even worse.

For one thing, the investigator never contacted Bev who could have corrected basic errors in the information provided to Assisted Care Registry.

One simple point is the investigator was told that Terry was on a waitlist for a long term care bed that hadn’t come through before the care home decided she was palliative. That was never the case and Bev confirmed that through Interior Health.

Another problem was the fact that the investigator asked for daily reports on Terry’s care only for the latter part of May and for June. By that time, Bev was back as an essential visitor helping to restore Terry’s weight and health.

There was some suggestion that care aids were not properly documenting Terry’s condition in April but the new paperwork showed that, in fact, they were chronicling serious concerns about her well-being. It's unclear whether the investigator simply didn't ask for May reports or if Sun Pointe just didn't provide them.

“Feeling weak, reluctant to get up from her bed at supper time,” was an April 5, 2020 entry. “Very slow moving and can’t barely walk towards the kitchen island to eat her supper meal.”

Staff did get Terry up and helped her eat.

“Refused shower this a.m.,” said a posting from April 16. “Would not get out of bed. Did not eat any breakfast either.”

Later that day: “She said she wasn’t OK but did not want me to call 911.”

Those are just a couple of a long list of notations that include soiling herself, refusing to get out of bed and refusing to eat.

Throughout all that time, Bev was told by management that Terry was doing fine.

“I know this is neglect, when you tell the main contact family member that their mother is fine and, yet, the care aids are reporting that they have very serious concerns,” Bev said.

She's gone to the B.C. Ombudsperson for assistance, consulted a lawyer and continues to contact the Ministry of Health with no indication that her complaint will ever be reconsidered.

“I’m not complaining about the (COVID) lockdown,” Bev said. “I’m complaining about them not being properly monitored during isolation. If the government isn’t going to look at this, how are they going to look at the potential that it’s happening to others?”

The Assisted Living Registry would not answer specific questions about the complaint nor why Bev was not consulted during the investigation but only the Sun Pointe operator was.

“We cannot speak to individual cases, but here is some general background,” the Ministry of Health said in an email. “The people who make complaints are engaged in the Assisted Living investigation process. The investigation process includes gathering information from the complainant and from the operator. If additional information is required, the investigator will follow up with the complainant prior to launching the formal investigation. Once the investigation is underway the investigator requests and analyzes relevant information from the operator.”

Baptist Housing would not respond to specific questions either.

“We are accountable to Interior Health and the Assisted Living Registrar where we willingly provide full access and transparency to our practices and care,” Deanna Bogart, vice president of marketing and communications for Baptist Housing, said in an email. “Due to privacy and confidentiality, we cannot comment on the personal health or circumstances of any individual. In the case concerning allegations brought forward by Ms. Ambler, her complaint was not substantiated by the Registrar’s Office and was subsequently closed.”

As far as Bev is concerned, she will keep fighting until her complaint is reopened in the hope that it will inspire others to not give up when their complaints are shrugged off by the authorities.


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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