01/12/2012 09:35 EST | Updated 03/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Alzheimer's patients left in restraints at health centre

Alzheimer's and dementia patients on Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula are being tied to their chairs for up to 15 hours a day because beds are unavailable in a protective-care unit, some families say.

Mildred Pike has Alzheimer's disease and needs to be on a locked-down unit — something the Burin Peninsula Health Centre doesn't have.

Levi Pike feels he's not asking for much — just that his wife Mildred be allowed to die with dignity.

"You know, that's what I want to see, and the children do too," Pike said.

To ensure she doesn't wander away, a pelvic restraint keeps her in a geriatric chair.

The region doesn't have enough protective-care units.

The U.S. Memorial Hospital in St. Lawrence has a long-term care facility attached with 10 of the protective-care beds, but they're full and there is a waiting list just as long.

That means patients like Mildred Pike spend most of their days immobilized.

Mildred's husband Levi says he drives the hour every day to the Burin health centre from his home in St. Lawrence to keep that from happening.

"She seems to be very well advanced now and we have an idea that she's not going to last very much longer," he said. "Our hope was to get her up here, you know, so she can get better care and put it bluntly, die with dignity."

Julie Mitchell's father also needs to be in a protective-care unit.

But there aren't any available at the St. Lawrence Hospital. So John Joe Pidgeon is on another unit and — like Mildred Pike — is also in restraints.

"It's pretty heartbreaking," Mitchell said. "Especially when he cries, because he says, 'I didn't do anything wrong.'"

Both say something needs to be done so their family members don't spend most of their remaining days tied to their chairs.