WARNING: This story includes graphic images.
A 75-year-old man with dementia suffered severe burns when his arm ended up on a radiator while he was sleeping on the Sudbury, Ont., long-term care home where he’s been living for over a 12 months.
Frank Bruhmuller’s wife, Diane Bruhmuller, believes understaffing on the Extendicare York long-term care home was the foundation reason for his injuries. Extendicare has since apologized to the family.
“I blame the entire system there,” Diane Bruhmuller said. “On weekends, you may get two people throughout the day.”
She said those two staff members would want to look after 26 people on her husband’s floor. Many, like him, would have dementia or other complicated health issues.
Bruhmuller said she received a call early the morning of Feb. 16 that her husband was rushed to Health Sciences North hospital to treat first-, second- and third-degree burns on his arm.
“The [emergency room] doctor told me that he’d never, ever seen anything like that coming from an extended term-care facility,” she said.
Bruhmuller said her husband has a small room within the long-term care home and his bed was against a wall with a baseboard heater.
“There’s alleged to be an area between that and … so persistently after I’ve gone there, the bed is correct up against the wall,” she said.
“I am unable to even make his bed properly because there is not any room to suit the sheets between the bed and the wall.”
Bruhmuller believes her husband’s arm slipped down the side of the bed and ended up on the baseboard heater while he was sleeping.
“I’m sure he felt it, but due to his dementia, we will only assume that he knew that there was pain, but he didn’t know learn how to react to it.”
She said he needed a skin graft to treat the burns and is now recovering within the long-term care home, with regular followup appointments on the hospital.
Wife says the house not 1st alternative for her husband
Bruhmuller said the Extendicare York long-term care home was not her first alternative for her husband.
She lives in Espanola, about an hour’s drive from Sudbury.
“Espanola was our primary alternative, but on the time I used to be told, just put five selections, put your primary alternative as Espanola and see what happens,” she said.
“And it just happened that Extendicare York phoned us first that there was a non-public room available.”
Frank was moved to the long-term care home in December 2021 and has been there ever since. They were told he would have the ability to transfer to the house in Espanola inside a 12 months, but that never happened.
Bruhmuller said she visits her husband six days per week and is his primary caregiver when she visits him.
“For the primary 12 months that I used to be there, I gave him his showers, I helped him dress, I helped him with meals. I do every thing there,” she said.
Bruhmuller added that many other residents do not have a spouse or anyone else to advocate for them.
While most of the staff are great, there aren’t enough of them, she said.
In an email to CBC News, Extendicare said it was “deeply saddened” by what happened.
“It mustn’t have taken place and we sincerely apologized to the family,” the statement said.
“Following the incident, the resident’s bed was moved to the proper location within the room. As well as, the house has been audited to make sure all resident beds are in appropriate locations in keeping with our safety policies.”
The statement also said the house will proceed to undergo monthly audits to make sure the beds are properly placed so there isn’t any risk an identical incident will occur.
Extendicare added that each one the radiators in its homes meet the standards of the Canadian Standards Association.