Bonnybridge family vows to fight against firm after death of great-gran

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The sad death of a beloved 87-year-old great grandmother is being linked to the upheaval she endured at the hands of her care provider in the last weeks of her life.

Christina Wilson, known to her family as Chrissie, died on June 14, shortly after being moved from Thornton Gardens care home in Bonnybridge because the facility was being closed down by owners Bield.

Now Chrissie’s granddaughter, who had been campaigning to keep the care home open, is vowing to continue the fight against a firm she believes is putting profits before the health and wellbeing of people like her gran.

Laura Owens, from Bonnybridge, said: “Lots of the elderly residents, like my gran – who had dementia, have complex conditions and there’s real evidence that any upset like a move to another care home can exacerbate those conditions.

“With my gran it happened really quickly – within a week of her moving to Bankview care home in Banknock in January her health began to deteriorate very quickly. It wasn’t the fault of the staff at Bankview, who did their best.

“She stopped eating and her confusion increased. At the end of her life my gran was frightened and confused. At the Bield home in Thornton Gardens it was a comfortable safe place, she had the same staff with her all the time, but when you privatise health you are always going to put the profits above the needs of the people in your care.”

Laura thanked all the staff at both Bankview and Thornton Gardens for the care they provided to her gran in what became a difficult situation.

She added: “Without doubt Thornton Gardens offered my gran a new lease of life following a difficult transition from her own home in Shawlands, in Glasgow, but there is no doubt in our minds the subsequent move for my gran, and I’m sure many like her, had huge consequences for her dementia and mental health.

“After being forced to move – and despite the best efforts of Bankview staff – she simply gave up on life. Sadly my gran’s last months were spent confused and at times frightened – something we warned was a huge risk if Bield Housing Association went ahead with their plan to abandon her and her friends.

“Something we pleaded with the Scottish Government to step in and stop.”

A national charity which looks after the wellfare of elderly people and seeks to protect their rights stated any move for a person of Chrissie’s age and condition could have a potentially devastating effect.

Adam Stachura, of Age Scotland, said: “This news is very sad indeed. We know from research and through the experiences of older people and their families that moving between care homes can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

“The transportation, unfamiliar surroundings and new carers can cause the individual stress and anxiety. This can be exacerbated with age and as a result of the severity of any health conditions they may have.

“While it is very regrettable that care homes close their doors, the health of their residents must be paramount. Care home providers need to ensure that there is proper and well managed consultation with residents and their families to ensure any risks are mitigated.”

When it dropped its bombshell last October, Bield stated it was closing the care homes due to “financial pressures” and wrote to clients and their families it would help them find alternatives before the deadline for closure.

At the time, Bield chief executive Brian Logan blamed cuts in councils’ social care budgets for its unsustainable care home business.

He added: “We have made the very difficult decision to withdraw from the residential care home market. This is a fundamental step and one which we do not take lightly, but it is in the best interests of the long-term future and sustainability of our organisation.”

At the start of 2018 Bield was accused of “washing its hands” of the vulnerable elderly people who still had no idea where or when they would be re-housed.

Bield stated it did everything to try and ease Chrissie’s transition to a new home.

A spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former resident Mrs Wilson and wish to pass on our condolences to her family.

“Mrs Wilson was popular with staff at our Thornton Gardens care home where she received the highest quality care.

“At the time of the closure we did everything in our power to minimise any disruption for residents while ensuring a smooth transition to their new care homes.”

Last month, following directly on from Chrissie’s death, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for a review of what he referred to as “the Bield care home scandal”.

Mr Leonard said: “The dignity with which we treat our older citizens is a measure of the kind of society we are. For Christina Wilson it was not necessarily that there was a compromise in the quality of care she received, but there was a huge breach in the continuity of care she received.

“Because her care home provider walked away from the market, this woman in her late 80s with dementia, was forced to move home. I’m not sure any of us can really begin to feel the distress and the trauma that has been caused, but we have a duty to understand it.

“Christina’s family demands a review of the human impact of what they describe in their own words as these forced transitions, and they are right.”

Laura, who is continuing the campaign, singled out the efforts of her own mother, Wendy, in always being there for Chrissie.

“My mum has shown a great deal of strength, dignity and courage at a time which has been extremely difficult and heartbreaking. She rarely left my gran’s side in her final days and, as always, put her own needs last.”

Laura also paid tribute to Chrissie and the positive impact she had on people throughout her long life.

“My gran’s legacy is many things – a sister, a mother, a grandmother and latterly a great grandmother. She was once an Avon lady, worked on many a counter at Woolies and worked right up until she was 74 in Tesco as a check out 
girl.

“She was a lot things to a lot of people, but one of the things I will remember and celebrate my gran for most, is how she found the courage to speak out about the decision to close her and friends’ homes.

“She did so on national TV and radio. She spoke up for what was right and told the world what was fair. Our welfare state is something worth fighting for, and the people that work in it are worth so much more than they are ever valued by our governments, both north and south of the border.

“My gran stood up for not only her rights, but spoke up for others not able to do so for themselves.

“I’ll be forever proud of her.”