11/27/2014 07:20 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 05:59 EST

Montreal Woman In Elderly Care Centre Not Bathed In A Tub In 9 Months

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Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says some policies in elder care facilities may have to be changed after learning that an 85-year-old woman in Montreal has not been given a bath in nine months, and has only received a sponge bath once a week.

“It’s a situation that is completely unacceptable,” Barrette said Thursday.

Rita Couturier moved to Centre d'Hébergement Auclair, an elderly care centre in Montreal, last February.

Her family placed her there after she suffered four strokes in 15 months. Couturier has paralysis in her left hand and foot and uses a wheelchair.

Her daughter Lyne Vandenplas says she was shocked to learn that since the move, her mother has received sponge baths only.

“It really shows on some body parts more than others. Her feet are where I see layers of skin. There's skin falling off,” Vandenplas said.

“I was shocked. I couldn't believe that there were reasons why people would not be given a bath.”

Baths given on case-by-case basis, centre says

The care centre said it bathes residents on a case-by-case basis.

A spokesperson wouldn't discuss individual cases, but said that a team of health-care professionals decides who is healthy enough to be bathed in a tub and who should be sponge-bathed.

“There are different ways to give a bath. The decision is made with the occupational therapist, nurse and attendant. We look at what place the bath will be given in relation to the situation of the resident,” said co-ordinator Sylvie Désilets, a co-ordinator at the health and social services centre​ CSSS Coeur de l'Île.

Vandenplas said if she knew that, she wouldn't have let her mother move in.

“Nowhere in there did anyone ever say she would've been ineligible to have a bath. If they did, I would have seriously reconsidered whether or not she should go there,” Vandenplas said.

Désilets also said that Couturier was bathed regularly.

“She got a sponge bath in her bed every week,” she said.

Désilets added that elder care centres are in the process of evaluating their clientele in order to upgrade their equipment.

“You have to understand that unfortunately we have residents who should always get a sponge bath in bed because the person is dying or has [paralysis]. Others are afraid of the water and do not want to bathe.”

The Quebec government says it will take a closer look at the issue.

“We at the ministry are reviewing the policy,” Barrette said.

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