Coalition Shines Light on Seniors’ Rights Issues in Canadian Health Care
Lois Sampson, founder of Seniors at Risk, is speaking out about some of the issues in long-term care homes in Canada. “There’s a strong sentiment towards animal cruelty but our seniors aren’t being treated as well as some animals,” says Lois. Politicians need to be better informed and individuals need to come forward and speak out.
In 2007 Lois raised questions about the medical care her mother Kathleen was receiving in the Lodge at Broadmead, a long-term care home in Victoria, British Columbia. Why was her mother being prescribed so many powerful drugs? Why was her mother required to remain in this facility when she could live with and be cared for by her daughter and son-in-law?
Removing Kathleen from the long-term care home proved an impossible task. A legal battle ensued. Staff at the facility began restricting visits. “My husband and I did everything we could to get her out to come live with us,” says Lois. Both she and husband Gil had gained a broad knowledge of the health care system at the provincial and federal levels through their careers as consultants. “We couldn’t solve this, imagine people without this background trying to help protect their loved ones,” says Lois.
Kathleen communicated her desire to leave the facility on a number of occasions. In 2008 she met with her lawyer to sign a new Representation Agreement designating Lois as her health care representative. Kathleen would finally be able to leave the facility and go live with her daughter and son-in-law. Ultimately, her wishes and legal document were dismissed by her health care providers and the courts. Kathleen died in the Lodge at Broadmead on May 4, 2011.
People experiencing similar situations started contacting Lois for help back in 2009 after a local journalist reported her story. “When concerns are raised, the situation takes a turn down a very predictable road,” says Lois, “family is threatened and banned from the place or visiting hours are curtailed.” Common among many of the cases is what she describes as improper efforts by health care providers and authorities. “There are efforts made by people in the health care system to attempt to divide the united families and pit one against the other. In this case the system works in opposition to a patient and their family. If there is an existing split in the family the health care system works with the side of the family that is most amenable to them.”
In February 2009 she started Seniors at Risk, a coalition of individuals and organizations advocating for seniors and their families who are affected by overmedicating, abuse, and the denial of legal rights in health care institutions in Canada. “We help them understand the larger picture, help give them suggestions and ideas as to what they can do, we put them in touch with other individuals that might be able to help them,” says Lois. Seniors at Risk does not accept any funding from government, unions, pharmaceutical companies, or any other vested interests.
Lois admits her personal experiences proved to be a painful introduction to the issues at hand but her mother’s case spurred her to become more deeply involved. “The biggest issue is the rights of seniors in the health care system are being eroded and ignored,” says Lois. She dispels the myth put forward by health care unions that the private sector is bad and the public sector is good by noting that these issues are appearing across the board whether the homes are run by health authorities, private, or non-profit organizations.