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“She was frightened of being abandoned”

Local family left with few options to care for aging mother following fall

Mother falls

Eva Saether sits with a picture of her mother, Emily Ann Mulder at ExtendiCare in Oshawa.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A local family has been left scrambling to find answers and the proper care for their 92-year-old mother after being left with little options when she was removed from convalescent care.

It started with a fall.

Emily Ann Mulder, a war veteran and mother of six – four boys and two girls –is living with her daughter Eva Saether. Saether, working full time, has been able to get a Community Care worker to visit the home four days a week for one hour. However, she knew it wasn’t enough for her mother, whose body is aging and her brain starting to show signs of dementia.

“She sat in my home alone, day in and day out,” Saether told The Oshawa Express.

This past November, Saether received the call that her mother had fallen at her home. She rushed to the house to find her mother on the ground, her femur broken in three places.

Mulder had surgery on Nov. 15 and was able to recover in hospital until Dec. 3, the length of stay covered under OHIP.

The family was left with three options. The first, they could allow their mother to stay in hospital, but would have to start paying the bills themselves, something they opted not to do. The family also decided not to sign their mother up for long-term care, which includes a three-to-five-year waiting list, as they were informed at the hospital that signing their mother up for long-term care would disallow her a stay in convalescence, and force her to stay in hospital with the family footing the bill. So, the family opted for a 90-day period at ExtendiCare in Oshawa.

However, the Long Term Care Homes Act states that Community Care Access Centres (CCAC), the organization operating many care homes around Ontario, including ExtendiCare, cannot require the person to return home or abide by hospital policies before taking an application for a long-term care bed.

After her 90-day stay, which included a second fall causing bruising to her shoulder, Saether and her sisters were told her mother had no choice but to leave.

ExtendiCare, under the purview of the Central-East region of the CCAC, and according to Gail Scala, communications for Central-East region, the 90-day period is a legislated policy that CCAC follows.

“We do work closely with our community partners and long-term care homes to resolve these issues,” Scala says.

Scala could not comment on the specifics of Mulder’s case due to privacy reasons, but stated CCAC has patients that deal with similar issues after their 90-day stay.

For Saether, she didn’t want her mother forced back into a home by herself, where she knew another accident was imminent, and she felt her mother’s rehabilitation wasn’t complete, despite her mother’s CCAC case worker claiming all was well since her mother could put weight back on her injured leg and was therefore ready to leave ExtendiCare.

The family was told this in a Feb. 27 meeting. According to Saether, they pushed to have the stay extended past March 3, the end of the 90-day window. However, it was denied, and the family was told if they were not there to pick up their mother, they could be charged with abandonment, Saether says.

“Our sense is now we’re being looked at as being difficult and we have to leave,” Saether said.

Saether was aware of another problem as well.

“Their assessment is that she can walk on that leg. Nobody is coming in and assessing her mind or her hallucinations or her confusions, and it was confusion that caused her fall,” Saether explains.

After the meeting, Saether spoke with her mother alone and realized the stress the situation was placing on her.

“I discovered how vulnerable she was feeling. I learned that she was frightened of being abandoned and yet, at the same time, reluctant to make a decision for herself because of her fear of being a burden on her family. At that point, I told her she was welcome to come home with me and assured her that her children would always be there for her,” Saether said in a follow up statement to the Express.

On March 3, Saether gathered her mother’s things and moved her back to her home. Saether and a few of her sisters exchanged taking days off work to spend with her mother while they worked to find another option.

“It’s putting a person in a prison,” Saether says. “Because all I have is a room for her. I’ve got the room and the living room, so that’s it. There’s no interaction, she sits there and she did it for eights months and she was bored, she was lonely, she was suicidal.”

On March 10, Mulder fell again while Saether was at home with her, causing immediate swelling to her face.

Following this, Saether arranged to have her mother stay in Centennial Retirement Home, a private seniors residence.

“Such retirement homes are unregulated and therefore not part of the health care system,” Saether said in her statement. “According to the (Long Term Care Homes Act), no one can be forced into a retirement home as an alternatives to a long-term care home bed, but that is exactly what is happening.”