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Justice Centre warns nursing homes should not be like prison for elderly

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has sent a demand letter to Beacon Hill Care Lodge in Winnipeg, Manitoba, copying Manitoba Health Minister Heather Stefanson and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, on behalf of Helen Naherny and her daughter Margaret Naherny-Bryner. The letter demands that Beacon Hill Care Lodge immediately allow Ms. Naherny-Bryner to visit her mother as a designed family caregiver, to provide her mother with food and water, and that Helen Naherny be examined by an independent doctor.

The Justice Centre has been informed that Ms. Naherny has been a resident of the Beacon Hill Lodge long-term care home since August 2020. Since that time, she has been forced to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week in her room in a small cot. She has not been allowed to leave her room. She has been denied foot care, making it painful to walk. The care home has called the police on Ms. Naherny’s daughter Margaret when Margaret has tried to bring her elderly mother food and water. As a result, Ms. Naherny is declining rapidly due to months of isolation and deprivation of care.

When Ms. Naherny had symptoms of a stroke, the Justice Centre was informed that Beacon Hill Lodge refused to allow Ms. Naherny to leave the lodge to be seen by a doctor at the nearest hospital. The Justice Centre has informed Beacon Hill Lodge that Ms. Naherny is not a prisoner, and she has every right to leave the care home if she wishes. She likewise is entitled to have her daughter as a designated family caregiver, which is outlined by the Manitoba government in the document “Long Term Care Resident Visitation Principles”.

The government has recognized the importance of designated family caregivers as “essential partners in care,” “actively and regularly participating in providing care and may support feeding, mobility, personal hygiene, cognitive stimulation, communication, meaningful connection,” etc. Under the principles set out by the government, Beacon Hill Lodge “must proactively and collaboratively work with the identify up to two designated family caregivers.”

Under the guidelines, designated family caregivers “should have the flexibility to visit anytime and for any length of time… and have reasonable access to both indoor (including resident room) and outdoor areas as essential partners in care.”

Ms. Naherny-Bryner states that she has been denied access to her mother. Ms. Naherny-Bryner now has concerns about her mother’s health and safety. Ms. Naherny-Bryner’s efforts to advocate for her mother have resulted in Ms. Naherny-Bryner being banned from Beacon Hill Lodge. The police have been called, but will not issue the daughter a ticket, recognizing she is trying to care for her elderly mother. Before contacting the Justice Centre for assistance, Ms. Naherny-Bryner contacted her MLA, the Liberal Party Health Critic for Manitoba, and the Minister of Health, without success.

“The situation with my mother has deteriorated to the point that she no longer wants to live. She says death would be better than living in the prison she calls Beacon Hell. She is now saying that she is going on a starvation diet if I can’t get her out of there. I need urgent help,” said Ms. Naherny-Bryner.

“The forced isolation of this elderly lady in Beacon Hill Lodge, and many other vulnerable and neglected Canadians in other similar facilities, has more in common with incarceration than care,” states lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre. “Ms. Naherny is a Canadian, and she has rights to liberty and security of the person like all other Canadians. She does not lose her constitutional rights simply because she is old. Quite frankly, preventing families from visiting their family members in these facilities is shameful, inhumane and illegal.”

The care home has until Friday, January 15 to immediately allow Ms. Bryner-Naherny to access her mother, bring her food and water, be designated a family caregiver for regular visits, and be seen by an independent doctor.

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