Coronavirus: Worried Alberta daughter moves mom out of long-term care

Debbie Milburn and her mom, 83-year-old Grace Johnston, are living at a hotel in Airdrie, Alta. It’s a temporary home until Milburn can get her mom into a long-term care home.

She was so worried about her mother living at AgeCare’s Walden facility, she moved her out just as the number of COVID-19 cases at the care home started to rise.

“I couldn’t have lived with myself leaving her there,” Milburn said.

“I phoned my mom and told her to grab a pillowcase, put her clothes in it and pack a box.”

Debbie Milburn outside the Airdrie hotel.
Debbie Milburn outside the Airdrie hotel. Thomas Andriuk/Global News

Milburn said she’s on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) and is renting a room in Crossfield, which isn’t large enough for both of them.

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“I am just thankful I got my mom out,” she said. “There’s people in there who don’t know what’s going on.

“We don’t put them in these places because we want to — we can’t look after them (and) they need the help.”

To date, 85 residents at the Walden facility have tested positive as well as 47 staff members. Nine people have died.

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Holly Britton is just as worried about her 89-year-old mom Irene. She’s lived at the Walden home for close to five years, but she can’t take her out. Irene tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve.

“We feel helpless. My mother calls and cries on the phone and wants out,” Britton said.

She said she’s concerned about how often the seniors are being checked on.

Holly’s mom Irene Britton.
Holly’s mom Irene Britton. Courtesy: Holly Britton

“My mother’s calendar was still on March,” Britton said. “No one goes in and says, ‘Can I turn on your Christmas tree or help put your jewelry on?’

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“They need someone to come in and manage them. There’s not enough staff.”

READ MORE: Concerns growing over COVID-19 outbreak at Calgary’s AgeCare SkyPointe care home 

AgeCare officials said executive leadership is just as concerned as the families. Dr. Patrick Quail, AgeCare Walden Heights’ site medical director, said since the onset of an outbreak on Nov. 12, staff have been focused.

“We have been following all the best practices for infection prevention and control, including the use of PPE to minimize the spread of the virus,” he said.

“AgeCare collaborates daily with AHS (Alberta Health Services), public health, and the medical officer of health in monitoring the status of outbreak and implementing recommendations as required.”

AgeCare Walden facility.
AgeCare Walden facility. Credit: AgeCare

Officials said they are in daily communication with families.

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“Staffing levels are critical for care provision, and staffing levels are assessed multiple times a day to ensure sufficient staff to support the needs of the residents,” Quail said.

“Continuous recruitment and agency staff are used where needed.”

Heather Noel said she knows staff are doing everything they can to care for her mom, Sandy Wozney, but is still worried about her getting COVID-19.

Heather and her mom Sandy.
Heather and her mom Sandy. Courtesy: Heather Noel

“It’s scary because she has MS (multiple sclerosis) and even though she’s younger, she is susceptible and I think coronavirus could take her out,” Noel said. “But they’re isolated. She can’t leave her room and barely leaves her bed.”

AHS officials said their teams are collaborating with AgeCare to ensure the necessary enhanced safety protocols are in place and said the health authority has continued to provide nursing case management oversight during the outbreak.

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