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Cries for help ignored ‘all night long’

June 5th,2024 | News

Masham resident Aline Maisonneuve (middle), seen here celebrating her 90th birthday with family, died April 14 after she was brought into the Hull Hospital unresponsive. From left to right: her granddaughter Sophie, her grandson Julien, her son Guy, and her late daughter Diane Maisonneuve. Photo: courtesy Shelley Langlois

Several residents at a care home in Hull say they heard Aline Maisonneuve screaming for help for hours on April 12, but nobody came to her bedside.

Her pleas in the middle of the night went unanswered and by morning, when staff checked on her, she was unconcious in her bed and they couldn’t wake her.

She died two days later in hospital. A Quebec coroner is now investigating the cause of her death.

Masham resident Aline Maisonneuve (middle), seen here celebrating her 90th birthday with family, died April 14 after she was brought into the Hull Hospital unresponsive. From left to right: her granddaughter Sophie, her grandson Julien, her son Guy, and her late daughter Diane Maisonneuve.
Photo: courtesy Shelley Langlois

Doctors at the Hull Hospital have filed an official complaint against the Résidence Villa des Brises long-term care home after they found bed sores all over the 95-year-old Masham woman’s body.

One resident said Maisonneuve had been “wailing” for help all night on April 11 and through the early hours of the morning on April 12, and nobody came to help her.

“It was all night long – I didn’t sleep that night at all,” said Sharon Nobert, who spent five weeks at the home between March 18 and April 25, while recovering from a broken knee and ankle. She said she’ll never forget the screams she heard that night. “It was horrible. She was wailing, crying out for someone to help her. She would stop for four or five seconds, and then she’d start up again. It lasted all night long. I feel so guilty now that I didn’t pull my alarm cord. I should have done it.”

The Aylmer resident said she heard Maisonneuve screaming until close to 7 a.m. when the morning staff switched over from the night shift employees. She said she thought Maisonneuve had finally settled. 

Low resident Steve Connolly was also staying at the home at the time of Maisonneuve’s death, and also reported hearing her screams. He said that Maisonneuve had been complaining about a stomach ache on the evening of April 11, but that the staff had told him that “she was fine.”

“She was screaming for help,” said Connolly. He said he watched an orderly “play with an iPhone” while her screams continued. Using a wheelchair, he said he wheeled over to the employee and said, “Can you not hear this elderly lady crying for help?” Connolly said the worker begrudgingly went to check on Maisonneuve and, a few minutes later, wheeled her into the TV room, leaving her with her back to the screen. Connolly said he thought Maisonneuve had settled for the night, so he went to bed and woke up to commotion in Maisonneuve’s room around 7 a.m. with employees shouting for help. It would be the last time Connolly said he saw her alive. 

According to her Masham family, on the morning of April 12 Maisonneuve was transported to the Hull Hospital, where doctors spotted the bed sores and immediately brought in Maisonneuve’s family to show them the disturbing state of her body. 

The Low Down spoke with Maisonneuve’s son Guy, and his partner Shelley Langlois at their Masham home. Speaking about his mother’s wounds, Guy said, “It’s still…” his voice breaking off, unable to continue. 

“It was very traumatic,” interjected Langlois. 

“They were profound wounds,” continued Guy, describing the bed sores that stretched from the base of his mother’s neck, all over her back and torso area. “The [Hull Hospital] nurses said they had never seen anything like it in 30 years. So, somehow, somewhere, no one tended to her, and there were no [Résidence Villa des Brises] nurses on the floor,” added Langlois. 

Deteriorated in two months

Langlois and Guy cared for Maisonneuve at their home in Masham during the pandemic – feeding, bathing, and clothing her daily and keeping her active until her dementia became too much. She was transferred to a long-term care bed at the Wakefield Memorial Hospital. She was set to be moved permanently to the Centre d’hébergement de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) in Masham, but there wasn’t room for her earlier this year. Instead, she was transferred to des Brises on Feb. 26 while awaiting a spot at the Masham facility. Des Brises has a partnership with the CHSLD and takes overflow patients when needed. 

Guy and Langlois praised the staff at the Wakefield hospital but said they noticed that Maisonneuve’s state deteriorated quickly while at the des Brises home – a span of only two months. 

“She was walking when she entered that home,” said Guy. “And that was the last time she ever walked.”

From chatting with other patients while Maisonneuve was under the care of Des Brises, Guy and Langlois said they started to get a picture of what life was like there, and they said what they heard was disturbing. 

One of those patients was Connolly, who kept a 40-page diary of the daily neglect he said he witnessed while recovering from cancer at the care home, which he showed to the Low Down. The Low Down contacted Connolly by telephone while speaking with Guy and Langlois at their Masham home. Guy had to remove himself from parts of the conversation because he said it was too disturbing to hear.

According to Connolly, orderlies regularly ignored patients who used one of the two alarms in the bedrooms.  

He recalled hearing Maisonneuve scream for help one day during lunch and said no staff was willing to help her for an hour and a half. He said that when he wheeled into her room, he saw her lying on the floor, helpless.  

“We’re in the dining room, and this damn alarm is going off at lunchtime down the hall, and nobody is answering,” said Connolly, explaining that a staff member was in the dining room, could hear the alarm, but continued to ignore it. 

“There are three people serving lunch, and everyone can hear [the alarm], and they’re not doing anything,” Connolly said, explaining that he then wheeled over to Maisonneuve’s room to check on her and realized that she was not okay.

“There she is lying on the floor, and she can’t talk very well,” said Connolly. “I said, ‘Are you okay?’ She said, ‘Help.’” Connolly said he then went to wheel back into the dining room, and realized an employee had followed him into the room and attended to Maisonneuve. 

These are just a few of the “abuses” that Connolly and Nobert said they witnessed during their time there. Nobert also told the Low Down that staff would routinely ignore her when she pulled the alarm for help. 

“The staff couldn’t get you to bed fast enough,” said Nobert, adding that all patients were in bed by 9:30 p.m. so that staff “were free to do what they wanted.”

“I think it’s abhorrent. It’s terrible. Something’s got to be done about that place.”

Résidence Villa des Brises is a Private Seniors’ Residence (French acronym: RPA), owned and managed by Mandala Santé, which owns several seniors’ homes in Quebec. The home partners with CHSLDs to take overflow patients when necessary. Mandala Santé did not respond to the Low Down’s questions regarding Maisonneuve’s death or answer general questions about how the home is operated. 

Résidence Villa des Brises in Hull is owned and managed by Mandala Santé, which owns several seniors’ homes in Quebec. Photo: Trevor Greenway photo

Coroner Pinault is expected to conclude her report sometime in June. 

According to CISSS de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), the health authority has appointed a manager to oversee things at Villa des Brises, and staff are working on an “improvement plan” to ensure that there is no gap in quality of care. 

“In accordance with our anti-abuse policy, as soon as there is suspicion of neglect or abuse, a report is made and safety nets are immediately established in collaboration with the residence,” wrote CISSSO spokesperson Camille Brochu-Lafrance in an email to the Low Down. “A complete analysis of each situation is then made with a view to correction or improvement.”

Brochu-Lafrance added that CISSSO staffers are now on site at the care home day and night to ensure that quality standards are met. 

“The quality of care and services is a priority for our establishment,” she added. “An improvement plan is underway, and collaboration with the partner is good. CISSSO workers are present on all day and evening shifts. Users or their caregivers can contact their pivotal workers at any time to address their concerns.”

Mother of six was ‘the salt of the earth’

Maisonneuve’s Masham family is now agonizing over the wait for a coroner’s report to determine whether or not the neglect they and other patients said they witnessed at the home played a factor in her death. 

“It’s like a nightmare that just won’t end,” said Langlois from her Masham home. “We’re reliving it because it was so traumatic,” added Guy.

The family said they have many questions, including how it was possible that the nurses and staff didn’t notice the bed sores, and why nothing was done about them earlier. They also questioned who dressed “an unconscious woman” in the morning; Maisonneuve arrived at the hospital fully dressed, meaning she was either dressed by staff at the home or went to bed in her clothes. 

Guy and Langlois said they are disturbed and devastated and want closure; to be able to lay the mother of six children and grandmother of six grandchildren to rest. 

“She was the salt of the earth,” said Guy, adding that anyone who met her became instant friends. Langlois said that all of their family friends called Maisonneuve “Grandmama.”

“She’d be dressed with a scarf and her pearls, and she would say, ‘How are you today? Would you like something to eat?’ No matter what was going on,” recalled Langlois. 

“Our kids are devastated,” added Guy about the loss of their Grandmama. 

20 Cases of elder abuse at Montreal homes

Reports of elder abuse have been making headlines since the pandemic. In Montreal in 2022, nearly 200 seniors were transferred from two seniors’ homes after an investigation found instances of abuse at Floralies-de-LaSalle and the Floralies-de-Lachine care homes. 

At least 20 cases of mistreatment had been reported at the two private long-term care homes before the regional health authority was mandated to take control of the situation. Quebec launched an investigation into the homes in August. According to their report, “abuse in all its forms” was found in the homes. Quebec’s Minister Delegate for Health and Seniors Sonia Bélanger told Le Droit that her government has “zero tolerance” for abuse at care homes across the province, and that she will ensure that the “necessary means are put in place” to ensure no other patients in the home suffer abuse. 

“It’s zero tolerance,” said Bélanger. “Employees and managers in RPAs must in no way neglect the safety of seniors and the quality of care and services.”

Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière did not return the Low Down’s calls for comment. 

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