12/04/2014 02:46 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 05:59 EST

Daughter says her mother didn't get a bath for three months while in care

REGINA - A Saskatchewan woman who says her mother went three months without a bath while in long-term care is calling for widespread changes to the system.

Debbie Windsor says her 74-year-old mother isn't being looked after properly at a Saskatoon facility for seniors and she attributes that to understaffing.

Windsor said she finally pushed a staff member to step in.

"I went there and within 20 minutes my mom was bathed," she said Thursday after her story was added to the Opposition's growing list of cases brought forward in question period about alleged neglect of seniors in care homes.

"There's no way I could physically put my mom in that tub. I'm in a wheelchair. All I have is my voice to get her in there, and my negotiating skills."

The NDP has been arguing for minimum care standards in the province.

Windsor's mother lives at Samaritan Place seniors home, which has brought in a model of care that requires residents to give permission to staff members in order to be bathed, she said.

But Windsor's mother, Margaret Froess, will tell staff members she doesn't need their help in an attempt to hold on to her independence, Windsor said.

"A lot of times this (model) ... translates into an excuse to do nothing for old people," Windsor said.

Her mother has also been assaulted by other residents with dementia and suffered spine fractures in one instance, she added.

A call to Samaritan Place was not immediately returned.

NDP Leader Cam Broten has said chronic understaffing in seniors homes is leading to neglect and that the government is minimizing concerns.

"There isn't that time to use gentle persuasive techniques," he said. "This is about ensuring that every person has their personal hygiene needs being met."

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said individual cases are being investigated, but he doesn't believe understaffing is systemic.

"We are following up to see whether or not this particular resident went three months without a bath," said Duncan. He suggested that staff trying to use gentle persuasion on someone can be ongoing. "I can see a scenario where it could be a three-month conversation.

"I'm sure along the way ... that there would be some conversations with some alternatives, maybe a sponge bath."

Windsor said she was made aware of the situation in a phone call in which she learned staff had been trying to get her mother to have a bath for three months. She said she hadn't noticed that anything was wrong when she visited.

"I wasn't even aware. I assumed she had been getting bathed."

Duncan told reporters he had information that would shed more light on Froess's case, but couldn't go into details.

"Samaritan Place does use the Eden philosophy which really does allow residents to have choice when it comes to issues around day-to-day activities and care," he said. "From time to time, when residents are able to make some of those choices, families may not always agree with what their loved ones decide."

Windsor showed media her proof of guardianship, which gives her the ability to make some health-care decisions on her mother's behalf.

"I have no vested interest in producing falsehoods of any sort," she said.

On Monday, Broten raised the case of Art Healey, a 76-year-old man who twice left a Rosetown care facility unnoticed, once when it was -11 C. Healey's daughter said he was outside for about 30 minutes without winter clothing before someone found him.

Last week, the NDP raised the case of Jessie Sellwood, 87, who fell while being moved to her bed and cut her back. A coroner's report said the fall at the Extendicare Sunset nursing home in Regina likely hastened her death.

And an ombudsman investigation has been launched into the death of 74-year-old Margaret Warholm, who had been a resident at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina. Medical records show Warholm reported losing 30 pounds in a year and had compression fractures in her vertebrae. She also had a large bedsore on her back that her family believes could have been prevented.

One of Ombudsman Mary McFadyen's goals will be to determine if there are systemic problems affecting long-term care.

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