Shadow Minister for Seniors Derrick Burgess, inset, said that at present there are not enough rest and nursing homes of an acceptable standard. *File photo/iStock photo
Shadow Minister for Seniors Derrick Burgess, inset, said that at present there are not enough rest and nursing homes of an acceptable standard. *File photo/iStock photo

Statement by the Hon. Derrick Burgess; JP, MP, Deputy Leader of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party and Shadow Minister for Seniors

The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party remains concerned about the elders in our community that reside in rest homes.  We believe that the standard of care in some of our rest/nursing homes should be reviewed by an independent body and at the same time the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act, 2001 should be a requirement that is closely monitored by Government.

Presently there are not enough rest and nursing homes of an acceptable standard.  As the population of seniors grows, the number of seniors requiring nursing care also grows.  The PLP believes that at least three more nursing care facilities of the high caliber and capacity as the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility is required for our aging population.  It is apparent that the Government has no plans to construct further facilities, neither are there plans to appoint qualified staff to deal with patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Even for those seniors fortunate in being able to live independently, there are no plans to build further seniors’ residences such as Dr. Cann Park in Southampton. 

Finding a place in a good nursing home for a loved one is a process complicated by the creation of procedures that are lengthy and inefficient. 

It is our understanding that a position was recently created for a civil servant to match nursing homes with applicants, but it is our information that the worker recently appointed is attempting to do this without visiting any of the nursing homes, assessing them for quality and risk or taking into account the needs of any of the applicants as per the Act.

A number of small residential and nursing care homes of varying standards exist on the island.  Some of these homes are in breach of the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act and probably needs to be closed.  The National Office for Seniors and Physically Challenged need to address this matter as soon as possible. 

Additionally, there is a pressing need for an anonymous abuse telephone hotline for seniors, both in the community and in nursing homes.    

There are no standards for extra charges, or regulations concerning what nursing homes are required to supply.  One nursing home asks families for an extra $200 a month ‘for items like ice cream outings and podiatry.’

I believe that Bermuda needs a Charter of Rights for the elderly – especially the elderly in need of care, and we the PLP will introduce such a Charter.  A residential care home can fulfill all the conditions of the Residential Care Homes Act but be totally deficient in terms of dignity, respect, comfort and appropriate care.  Bermuda also needs an impartial, non-aligned body to regularly review and inspect homes for the elderly, and to respond swiftly to complaints.

Some complaints that have been shared with me by relatives of seniors who presently reside in privately-run rest homes are as follows:

A stroke victim, unable to speak and with several deep open bed sores, almostskeletally thin, his body contorted and rigid and in urgent need of specialist nursing care was found at a private nursing home; complaints were made but to no avail.  The situation was resolved by bypassing all the protocols and moving the patient to another facility.

Residents in another home spend the whole day inactive sitting in designated chairs in a main area where there is no ventilation or access to open air;

One resident’s nails had not been cut for a very long time, they were so long and curved that they resemble claws;

One home served pizza and salad for dinner; on another night sandwiches were served for dinner.

In another home there was mold on the ceiling and at the top of the walls, andthere was only cold water in the bathroom.

Another elderly lady was admitted to an assisted living unit in a four bedded room,containing a high non-adjustable bed with wheels that would not lock, a call button that was out of reach, a slippery floor and no night light.  The room was in complete darkness at night contrary to the 2001 regulations.  During the night she attempted to get out of bed to use the bathroom, which skidded across the floor causing her to fall which resulted in injury to her. 

Advancing in age does not involve any reduction of a person’s rights.  Age and dependency cannot be the grounds for restrictions on any inalienable human rights.