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Letter: Western Health policy should be re-examined

Dear Editor: On Jan. 27, at approximately 9:40 p.m., my sister Karen passed away at the age of 57 following a brief illness.

On the morning of January 28, a little over 12 hours since her death, my daughters and I went to Karen’s room at the Corner Brook Long Term Care Facility to select clothes for her to wear for her visitation and funeral. We were shocked to find empty boxes stacked in her room. We were further shocked and dismayed when we were told that we had 24 hours from the time of her death to clear out her room. We were offered assistance, or told that it could be done for us, but the room had to be cleared out immediately. This was their policy. This was a policy that I had no idea existed. I was informed of this policy on the morning following my sister’s death.

Karen had been a long-term care resident for approximately 15 years, following a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, but in her right mind. Her room was completely filled with all of her possessions, items and clothes, which she treasured dearly — things people had given her, items that she had purchased in the gift shop or had others purchase for her elsewhere. This room was her home. Everything she had was contained within that small space. She rarely, if ever, disposed of items, so every nook and cranny of the room was full. As we did not feel that she would have wanted others going through her belongings, and because we wished to look for items that I had already noticed were missing, we refused help and undertook to clear out the room ourselves.

In between meetings with the funeral director and clergy to plan Karen’s funeral, my husband and daughters were forced to toss Karen’s belongings into garbage bags and boxes in order to comply with a policy that I had no idea existed. When I became upset when discussing the matter with administrators, I was told that I was being disrespectful to them.

This situation has made what was already a sad and difficult process immeasurably worse. My sister would have been horrified to see her belongings handled in such a matter. Knowing that we did so bothers me more than I can ever say.

This policy illustrates a complete lack of respect for the residents and families who rely upon Western Health, people who have already had to make difficult decisions and choices regarding their care or the care of their family members.

I write this letter to let other families know that this policy is in place, so they are not blindsided as I was. I suggest that Western Health re-examine their policy and improve their communication with the families that they serve.

Roslynn West, Corner Brook

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