It was Judy Galley’s personal experience with seniors housing that has made her one of B.C.’s most outspoken advocates for reform in those operations.
“My father had basically become bedridden and had to spend the last six months before he died in one of those facilities. That was my introduction to the quality of care and it was not a good one,” said the Sorrento resident who has started a province-wide petition to call attention to problems she has identified with the current system. “My father was lucky enough that there were enough family members that we were able to take shifts making sure that he was not unattended.
“But it began to occur to me that there are an awful lot of people who do not have family to supplement their care in a facility and so I started researching the seniors care housing.”
Part of that research involved going over the online inspections from the province’s five regional health authorities and what she found, shocked her and confirmed her fears.
“When you read these reports it’s just shocking and people really should take a look and find out what’s going on. It’s all public knowledge,” said Galley. “Since I started this I’ve been hearing from people in Vernon, Penticton and Kelowna who have contacted me even if it’s just to say good for you or actually asked me to help them with their own facilities.”
As well, she has also been called by employees from a number of seniors housing facilities who see problems on a regular basis but are unaware or afraid to make their concerns known to officials.
So part of her work is to make those workers, as well as the residents of the homes and their families aware that there is protection.
“What it comes down to is that after all the hundreds of seniors and families that I spoke to, the worst thing that I discovered is that literally no one even knew there was Bill 17 which is the residents bill of rights,” said Galley. “The main thing that is most pertinent as far as I’m concerned is they are insured protection from abuse and neglect and neglect is happening because of minimal government standards.”
In the case of her father and many other people living in seniors housing she feels there is not adequate staff-to-resident ratio, in particular, the care aides who are the front line when it comes to looking after those living in the facilities.
“I am not slamming the employees, they run around like chickens with their heads cut off, they try as hard as they can but there is just not enough of them and they are indeed complying with minimal government standards which are on the whole, horribly inadequate,” said Galley. “The management tries their best to deal with people’s concerns but when you get into a privately-owned, for-profit facility it’s a completely different story.
“We have to push the government into legislating specific client- to-staff ratio and if it’s legislated then it is supposed to be enforceable.”
She added changes in the past to make it easier for private enterprise to get into the seniors housing business was a mistake.
“At the moment my aim of attack is shaming the government into doing what is right,” said Galley.
She added the government should also adopt a recommendation from the ombudsperson’s report on seniors housing to impose fines or other penalties on facilities for not following the rules and regulations.
“That recommendation was out and out rejected by the minister of health and I find that highly suspicious,” she said. “Privatizing human care was a huge mistake. You can’t mix the care of seniors and profit. It’s something that government needs to do but they don’t want that responsibility.
“So seniors are having their rights violated on a regular basis because the government is not protecting them from neglect.”
Galley is asking people to reach out to her at 2433 Sherry Rd., Sorrento, B.C. V0E 2W1.