Bureaucratic double speak tries to paper over neglect of disabled senior dead in her apartment for five months evoking “sad emotions” in civil service
There is more to the death of Elizabeth Berrigan than the Province of PEI wants to admit.
Nor is the media telling the whole story.
Berrigan was a person living with a disability in a subsidized government housing unit and largely abandoned despite her needs.
Berrigan’s ignominious and tragic end – alone and dead in her apartment for five months – should be a wake up call that things are not OK.
Yesterday we identified the missing facts in the tragic story Disabled senior found dead after five months
According to Faye Martin director of seniors policy for the PEI government, it’s logical that a person could be abandoned in a government seniors housing facility.
“In the situation where seniors are living independently and wish to live independently, we respect that wish of theirs,” Martin told CBC.
Martin goes on to call her role “dynamic” in the care for Berrigan. “…we act as a landlord tenant dynamic. Typically that would not include checks monthly.”
Elizabeth Berrigan was not really a senior citizen. She was only 60 years old. She did, however, have a disability that made it difficult for her to live alone.
Berrigan also lived on low-income. Without these two criteria she would not have qualified for government housing assistance in a seniors unit for people 55 years old with a disability.
According to the government website, “There are seniors’ housing apartment-style rental units in 34 communities across the province. Islanders aged 60 and older are eligible for assistance. Islanders who are 55 and older who have a disability are eligible to apply and will be given consideration based on the availability of seniors units.” Community Services Seniors and Labour
To live at Park Royal Court Berrigan had to have a disability and be living below the poverty line with no appreciable savings or property. Her situation had to be severe because there are hundreds of people in the same situation on a waiting list.
Berrigan had two daughters. They lived out of province and obviously weren’t close. The obvious question is how a family did not contact their mother over Christmas. Oddly, their names were not included in the death notices.
The lack of supports for Berrigan beyond the housing is the missing link in the chain. People with disabilities need home care when they have no family that can assist them.
Faye Martin and her staff knew Berrigan’s circumstances and should have offered assistance. They should have made sure Berrigan was getting the help she needed. That they didn’t is typical.
Home care on PEI is generally restricted to post-hospitalization and only includes a few services like bathing assistance. Essentially it is only there for the most severely disabled.
There are many other things that people with disabilities and seniors need in the home care area such as assistance with paying their bills, cooking, cleaning.
Why should the Province help? Compassion, human rights, dignity and inclusion come to mind but let’s just look at the dollars and cents.
Moderate disability can make day-to-day independent living impossible, forcing people into full care facilities. The cost to the taxpayer is up to seven times greater than assisting people in their own homes.
People with disabilities who don’t get home care are more likely to need expensive medical attention.
The Province of Prince Edward Island, for budget reasons, does not extend the hand of support for people with disabilities. The disabled and seniors have to fight through bureaucracy.
The brick wall the Province of PEI puts up to keep supports from the disabled is unbelievable. We’ve seen it time and time again. Two years ago, a paraplegic was evicted from housing unit and only intervention didn’t have him on the streets of Charlottetown in winter. Seniors with disabilities regularly tell us how they feel shut out by civil servants, helpless in the face of hard-nosed bureaucrats.
Nova Scotia which has worse budget problems than PEI has a more proactive home care program for seniors. My 92-year-old mother has very good family and community supports and lives alone. Despite that, the Province provides her regular home care which includes cooking, cleaning, laundry and some one to check in on her. NS operates pro-actively to make sure seniors are not abandoned.
The Toronto Star has tried to cast this story as one of senior’s rights – the right to privacy. Toronto Star – Senior’s unnoticed death raises questions about rights
The everyday reality is that seniors and the disabled need help with home care but can’t get it.
More details came to light Friday about the Charlottetown woman whose body was found this week in an apartment months after she died.
A friend said the death of 60-year-old Elizabeth Berrigan was the result of a tragic miscommunication.
Ralph Gregory said one of the neighbours believed Berrigan had gone to stay with friends for awhile, so no one thought anything was wrong.
It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that Charlottetown police were called in to investigate after neighbours noticed a terrible smell.
Berrigan lived in Park Royal Court, a senior’s apartment complex owned by the province.
Faye Martin, director of seniors policy for the department of community services, seniors and labour, said Berrigan lived independently, similar to a tenant in an apartment, with the same privacy rights.
“In the situation where seniors are living independently and wish to live independently, we respect that wish of theirs. And in that situation we act as a landlord tenant dynamic. Typically that would not include checks monthly. Certainly this type of situation calls to mind some emotions about how sad it is, but communities are there to help out.”
“We would hope that this is not the type of thing that would happen frequently,” said Martin.
It could be weeks before the Chief Coroner’s report is complete.