Family angry home support fails mother

NANAIMO – Hilda Cruttenden was released from the hospital Nov. 8, but her family said she was too weak to go home without adequate support.

An 80-year-old woman with Parkinson’s disease was discharged from Nanaimo Regional General Hospital without adequate home support, says her family.

Hilda Cruttenden fell and was rushed back to Nanaimo hospital by ambulance five hours after being discharged Nov. 8.

According to her son Peter Cruttenden, Island Health didn’t deliver on assurances of adequate home support, making the fall inevitable.

His mother has a history of weakness and frailty and the family had been told she would receive ample support if she was released from the hospital, including a community care worker at her residence when she returned home.

But Cruttenden said an Island Health employee didn’t arrive until three hours after his mother was wheeled back into her apartment and the professional didn’t stay long – a move he calls ‘negligent’ and not enough.

The health authority apologized to the family.

In an e-mail, an Island Health spokesman told the Nanaimo Bulletin it had advised its client a care worker would be at her residence when she arrived home, but “unfortunately, the client had a fall prior to the arrival of the staff member.”

“It was never safe for her to be there [without support] given her status and that she fell on the very first visit to the toilet tells [you] that,” Cruttenden said.

“I’m angry that my mother was discharged in such a poor condition into a home care system that clearly is not functioning well … [but] I’m also very concerned that other patients will be put in the same situation unless there are changes made.”

The B.C. Nurses’ Union agrees change is needed to improve an underfunded and understaffed health care programs like home support, but says it needs to come from the provincial government.

The province is mandating new services Island Health has to deliver, but isn’t providing the funding for them to hire more staff, said Jo Salken, Pacific Rim chairwoman for the nurses’ union.

“What [government is] saying is the best place for the elderly … to be is at home rather than in the hospital, but the problem is if you don’t put the manpower in place in the community to be able to operate that program it’s going to fall down and that sounds like what’s happened here,” she said, adding it’s a huge concern.

“The problem is not just the patients who have families, they have an advocate … but what about all those elderly out there that are falling through the cracks that don’t have someone to speak for them?”

Hilda did not suffer any injuries from her fall, but remains at the Nanaimo hospital where she is waiting for a long-term care bed.