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Chilliwack senior felt ‘absolute despair’ after Fraser Health no-show

Confined to wheelchair, woman was twice left sitting in incontinence underwear for 20-plus hours
Pamela Garrity, 77, has been confined to a wheelchair since falling out of bed in late September, and relies on a Sarastand (right) to get in and out of bed, get on and off the toilet and do other things. (Eric J. Welsh/ The Progress)

A Chilliwack senior says Fraser Health’s Home Health services let her down, and she’s worried that what happened to her might happen to someone else.

Pamela Garrity, 77, has been unable to stand on her own since falling out of bed in early September.

After getting treated at Chilliwack General Hospital, Garrity was sent home Sept. 20 with the promise that Fraser Health community health workers would visit three times a day. The very first day, someone helped her in the morning and again at noon. But whoever was supposed to come around 9 p.m. called in sick.

Garrity didn’t get help until 9 a.m. the next day.

“The only way for me to get to the toilet is with help, so I sat in my incontinence underwear from noon on Wednesday to 9 a.m. on Thursday,” Garrity said. “Also I didn’t get any supper, because I can’t reach the fridge or cupboards.

“Not turning up overnight is just appalling.”

Garrity claimed the same scenario played out the next day. The senior was left alone for more than 20 hours, and this time she said no reason was given for the no-show.

“It was a feeling of desperation and absolute despair,” she recalled. “What I felt like doing was dialing 911 and getting myself taken back to hospital, but I didn’t do it because I’m too stubborn.”

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In an emailed response to The Progress received Oct. 11, Fraser Health’s Lee Rego said they were “sorry to hear about this person’s concerns regarding their care and (we) apologize for their experience.”

Rego admitted Fraser Health is experiencing a shortage of community health workers, which has led to the rescheduling of some Home Health visits. She said they are continuing to “actively recruit for these roles to ensure we are able to best support our clients,” but they are having to make tough decisions based on an assessment of risk to life, health and safety.

“In the event a Home Health visit needs to be cancelled or rescheduled, our Home Health team makes every effort to ensure our clients are notified in advance,” Rego noted.

There was a second issue.

The senior was sent home from hospital with a device called a ‘Sarastand.’

A care aide can help her into the device which puts her in a semi-standing position. The Sarastand is on wheels, and Garrity can be moved around her one-level house to eat, bathe, get dressed, get in and out of bed and use the toilet. But after three days of helping her use the Sarastand, Fraser Health personnel were told to stop using it until a two-part assessment could be done on both the device and Garrity.

Rego said assessments are a necessary step for the safety and well-being of Home Health clients and community health workers.

“Following this assessment, to ensure the safety of our clients and staff, community health workers are trained to use equipment that may be required to support our clients,” Rego explained. “Our physical and occupational therapists will also help people learn to use equipment designed to improve their safety at home. Bath seats, grab bars, scooters, walkers, wheelchairs and lifts may be new to our clients, and we want to ensure they are comfortable using them appropriately.”

The first half of the assessment was scheduled for Oct. 8, and at the time Garrity spoke to The Progress, no date had been set for the second part.

While she was waiting, Garrity had turned to private home care that she couldn’t afford. Private care aides could use the Sarastand, but it cost her $270 a day, which was burning through her savings like a wildfire. She figured she could do that for another three weeks before her money ran out.

Fortunately, Fraser Health contacted her over the weekend and both assessments were done. Fraser Health care aids can once again use the Sarastand, but the entire experience has left Garrity feeling sad and angry.

She’s relieved that her situation has been resolved, but she worries it has come at the expense of someone else.

“I’m sad because I’ve got my brain intact, with maybe a few bits missing, and I can advocate for myself,” she said. “But if I was my next door neighbor who’s 84 and doesn’t understand anything, what would happen? I feel some of this should be brought to light because it can’t just be me this is happening to.

“It’s got to be happening throughout the Fraser Valley.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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