Advocate speaks out on drunken care aide incident in Penticton

Isobel Mackenzie believes changes are needed to care aide registry.

Unlike publicly funded care aide services, there is very limited control over those who seek employment privately in that field.

And according to B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie the incident earlier this week involving a Penticton man in his 80’s who made an early-morning 911 call to police about his extremely intoxicated care worker, it highlights the need for changes in government policy, specifically the B.C. Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry.

“Members of the public don’t have access to the registry, which I think is a real shortcoming,” said Mackenzie. “For families who want to hire their own care aide, we should allow them the same access. To allow them to verify that the person they’re hiring is a registered care aide or not.

“This seems to me to be a straight-forward fix.”

Currently licensed care home and publicly funded services are the only ones who can check the registry.

All care aides working for publicly funded employers must be registered, although private aides can voluntarily register and receive a number, which can be checked.

“These are becoming increasingly more important issues because we’re going to see way more cases like the one this gentleman described,” said Mackenzie. “These kinds of incidents, as tragic as they are, are often the impetus for change, and so I’m actually going to be using this particular incident as an example of if the family had been able to hire a registered care aide and confirm their registration, this situation could potentially have been avoided.

“And while it may not have prevented the first time she showed up drunk, it might have prevented the fifth time.”

In the case this week when police arrived they found the woman, who has a history of similar incidents throughout the Okanagan, very drunk and belligerent to the point where she had to be physically restrained before being arrested.

Related: Drunk senior’s care aide arrested

“When I hear stories like this my first response is obviously this is upsetting to the man and it’s upsetting to his family, and that’s unfortunate,” said Mackenzie. “I hope it hasn’t shaken him too much because when we’re older and feeling more vulnerable things like this upset us a little bit more. This is somebody in our home.

“Obviously we recommend criminal record checks for hiring anybody but they’re not the be all and end all, they don’t give you the guarantee that some people think they do.”

She added that even if the family, which reportedly did not do reference checks, had done their due diligence, there is no guarantee the incident would not have happened.

“One of the problems is a lot of people would not have come forward with the story,” said Mackenzie. “We know about this because you’ve brought this story to light but this happens more frequently and people just don’t talk about it.

“This potentially helps somebody down the road. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know exists and that’s why coming forward with this is important and often is the catalyst that leads to the change.”