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Daughter alleges mother neglected at northern Alberta care facility

Alberta Health Services has launched internal investigation after substandard care alleged for Alzheimer's disease patient at Barrhead Continuing Care Centre.
Four siblings are concerned about the treatment their mother received at Barrhead Continuing Care and are looking for other potential facilities to care for her.

BARRHEAD - Four siblings are seriously considering moving their mother into another acute care senior residence after they believe she received substandard care at Barrhead Continuing Care.

"We just don't have a lot of faith in Barrhead Continuing Care after what happened to our mother," said Bobi-Jo Knebel, who is her mother's-designated decision-maker, adding that she and one of her sisters have toured multiple nursing homes in the region in recent weeks.

Patricia Knebel, 74, was taken to the Barrhead Health Care Centre on Christmas Day and was diagnosed by the emergency room physician as having several ailments, including multiple serious infections such as a yeast infection, a urinary tract infection, as well as pneumonia, all of which Bobi-Jo believes were preventable and were caused by neglect by Barrhead Continuing Care.

Patricia, who has Alzheimer's disease and is presently nonverbal, had been living with Bobi-Jo until February 2023, when she suffered a seizure while staying at a friend's house and was taken to a St. Albert hospital, where she stayed for about two months.

"[The doctors] believe the seizures were due to her Alzheimer's," Bobi-Jo said, adding complicating her mother's health matter is that the seizures, due to her osteoporosis, also caused her to break her arms in several places as well as dislocate her shoulder.

In April, Patrica was transferred to Barrhead Continuing Care.

"Mom never wanted to go into a home, and I didn't want to put her into one, but at that point, I felt it was out of my control," she said, adding her condition deteriorated in the hospital to the point that she needed more care than she could provide.

However, after meeting with staff and touring the facility, Bobi-Jo decided Barrhead Continuing Care was the right fit for her mother, largely due to the proximity, as she works in town and is only 10 minutes away from her house, allowing her to visit frequently.

Which she did, Bobi-Jo said, noting, on average, she visited at least two to three times a week.

"She's just been mistreated the whole time that she's been in there. Every time I went to visit her, she had food on her clothes, a black eye, chapped and bloody lips, the list goes on and on," she said.

Although Bobi-Jo understands how some of those things, such as food on her mother's clothes, can be missed, she is less forgiving about some of the other issues.

"When it starts affecting her physical and mental health, that is when I start getting concerned," she said. 

She gave the example of how she found her mother during one of her visits in July.

Bobi-Jo said her mother looked distressed and had bumps all over her face and her scalp, including a large open sore on her cheek.

"I immediately started crying because she looked like she was in pain," she said, adding she noted that staff told her she had been suffering from the bumps and the sore for about four days.

She added that staff had not contacted her despite the change in her mother's condition and was told that they hadn't contacted her doctor.

At her insistence, a doctor examined her mother and diagnosed her with having a staph infection and shingles.

Bobi-Jo added her family has also found mould in their mother's gastrostomy tube, which she had inserted in February, saying that it was supposed to be changed every four weeks, claiming staff did not change it until December.

And there was Christmas Day when she received a phone call from Barrhead Continuing Care staff saying she had suffered a seizure.

She rushed to the facility and found her mother alone in her room.

When she arrived, she found her mother sitting in her wheelchair in the corner of her room.

"She is shaking, her eyes are rolling in her head, sweating, smelling of urine and was gasping to breathe," Bobi-Jo said.

When she asked staff why they had not called 911, she said they told her it wasn't their protocol.

Bobi-Jo then decided to call 911 and was taken to the Barrhead Healthcare Centre, where she remains.

Response to complaints

Bobi-Jo said she feels the family's concerns should have been taken seriously and acted upon.

She said she raised her concerns with Barrhead Continuing Care staff, starting with floor staff and nurses, before meeting with management at the facility.

She and her siblings have also met with Alberta Health Services (AHS), which runs the facility, twice in mid-January to detail their concerns, and Bobi-Jo said the care her mother received did not improve.

She also noted that she talked to United Conservative Party (UCP) Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken via Zoom about two weeks ago.

"I was not impressed," she said. "He told me that there was a process that needed to be followed, saying the first step I needed to do was to contact AHS, which I had already done, and that it had to be completed. He said it was too early for him to get involved," she said.

Bobi-Jo said she had hoped he would have taken the "bull by the horns", so to speak, saying that her husband's family had a similar issue with a family member in a seniors facility in Winnipeg.

"My mother-in-law reached out to her MLA, and he visited the facility and wrote a letter. It didn't take long until things got much better," she said. "I guess I was hoping for something like that."

Bobi-Jo said she is also considering consulting and hiring a lawyer, adding since her mother has been in the Barrhead Healthcare Centre, she has talked to multiple children who have experienced the same thing with their loved ones.

The Knebel family has also filed a complaint with Alberta's Protection for Persons in Care office, asking the province to investigate. PPC investigators conduct impartial investigations under the Protection for Persons in Care Act.

In response to a request for comment, AHS stated that the safety and well-being of their residents is their primary concern, saying an internal review of the situation is underway.

"Any allegations of misconduct or neglect are thoroughly investigated and reviewed. We have an ethical, moral and professional responsibility to care for residents with respect and to ensure their well-being," the AHS spokesperson stated, adding that to protect patient privacy and confidentiality, they couldn't comment further.

Barry Kerton,

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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