A Wadena family said they watched their uncle who has Down syndrome go from riding his bike and playing music to being spoon-fed and wearing diapers when he had to move out of his group home into a long-term care facility at the age of 62.
Christie Gradin said her uncle Jerry Kryzanowski lived with family most of his life until a few years ago when they decided to proactively find him a new home because her parents, who were his primary caregivers, are aging.
Gradin described her uncle as very sociable, fun-loving and active before he had to move.
“He loves work, he loves helping other people out. He wants to be productive with his time. He loved biking, playing guitar, Elvis, singing, dancing. He absolutely adores his great-nieces and nephews playing with them and just general family interactions,” Gradin said.
While his medical needs didn’t really change, Gradin explained when Jerry started waking up at night, the group home couldn’t get provincial funding to provide an overnight shift worker. From her understanding, there are other models of group homes that do provide overnight shifts workers.
“The executive director of the group home that he was being displaced from said long-term care was not an appropriate placement for him, but Social Services said ‘well he’s old, so then he could go into long-term care,’” Gradin said in an interview with 980 CJME on Friday.
In October 2016, Gradin said Social Services told the family there were no other spaces available in group homes in the area for Jerry but they would keep looking for an appropriate placement while he was in long-term care.
She described it as heartbreaking to walk him into the long-term care home after he said he didn’t want to live in a hospital.
Gradin said the model of long-term care is not designed to support someone with Downs syndrome who is active like Jerry.
She used the example of how staff would only have 15 minutes to get him ready for the day but on some days it would take two hours. She said he was medicated to the point of falling over when he walked, wearing diapers and needing to be spoon-fed.
“We thought that as family, we could provide quality of life, but when somebody is medicated to that point, nobody could provide quality of life. In fact, the life was taken right out of him. You couldn’t interact with him at all, he wouldn’t respond and could barely walk so we couldn’t even take him out of the facility to spend time in our family homes because of the state he was in.”
He was offered a temporary spot in the Parkridge Assessment Centre in Saskatoon which was extended until Jan. 20 of this year.
Despite multiple meetings with Community Living Service Delivery and Social Services, the family still keeps hearing the same message.
“We keep hearing from Social Services that there’s no vacancies and there’s no funding, yet Jerry is still being funded residentially in long-term care and long-term care is way more expensive for taxpayers than a group home would be,” Gradin commented.
This week the family spoke out by posting a video to Facebook and asking people to contact their MLAs.
The video caught the attention of the Saskatchewan NDP which released a statement pointing to his plight an example of the harsh consequences of the Sask. Party government’s cuts.
An emailed statement issued by the government on behalf of Social Services noted the compassion and care expressed by people sharing Jerry’s story.
“We share those concerns and continue to work with the family to explore all possible options for Jerry. Like all of our clients, the focus is on finding a place for them to live that meets all their needs – often including complicated and specific health needs.”
The email went on to state that a client’s needs can change and complicate their care which means original placements aren’t always a good fit to ensure their well-being. The email also said the ministry is addressing concerns directly with the family to explore appropriate placements in both the short-term and the long-term.
Gradin said all Jerry said he wanted at Christmas was to live in a real house again, and the family maintains that he does not belong in long-term care.