Eli Shupak
Eli Shupak says ignored his repeated complaints about poor care.
Photo By Kathryn Gaitens

ome came into my home with an attitude. Others showed up when they pleased. A few arrived not wanting to do any work but demanding their time sheets be signed anyway.

These were incidents I chose to bite my tongue over during the 13 months the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) provided my daily physical care.

But it's hard to keep quiet after being mailed the results of a client survey by CPA telling me their "caregivers" received an overall satisfaction rating of 96 per cent from users. I can't imagine that level of satisfaction, given the rough treatment I received.

I started using CPA on an interim basis last February. On one occasion, I made what should have been a simple enough request to a caregiver – that he not be so rough when washing my face in the morning. He proceeded to rub my face especially hard, telling me that he was "the general" and the one in charge.

I'd spent many days wanting to speak up, dreading the time each day when my face was about to get scrubbed, but I just didn't feel comfortable.

When I brought this incident to the CPA's attention, a manager suggested he'd just been kidding around, but did grant my request that he not return.

This fellow, who admittedly liked to joke around, had stepped over the line, and it greatly disturbed me that my complaint wasn't taken all that seriously.

I continued to put up with another CPA staff member coming when it suited him. He'd arrive upwards of an hour earlier or later than the scheduled time, depending on when he had to be in church. He came when it was convenient for him, without so much as asking if it was OK or calling to let me know.

Another caregiver asked why I was dropping things on the ground, whether it was intentional so she'd have to pick them up.

When I asked this same individual to wash a couple of dishes, she complained about doing "other people's work" – even if that was the only thing I needed her to do in the hour she was booked to be with me.

CPA tells me attendants are supposed to do what they're asked to do in the time permitted. But I've had a mighty struggle getting the majority of them to do anything besides giving me my meals.

Asking one caregiver to dry my hair with a hair dryer turned into a major issue. I notified the CPA week after week without receiving any satisfaction, even after going to bed with wet hair one night and waking up sick the next morning. It got to the point where I just gave up.

Yes, the CPA spoke to him, but he came back the next week wanting to know why I was being a "nuisance."

On one of his subsequent visits, he told me I could stop calling to complain about his work habits because "these managers weren't the ones that hired (him) and they won't be the ones that fire (him)."

I recently informed Vera Harris, CPA attendant services manager, that I was not at all satisfied with how this whole situation had been handled.

Shockingly, she blamed me for not following up on the matter.

"As far as we're concerned, we did our part," she tells me. "We can only continue with an investigation or with any sort of discipline if we're told what's happening."

I was running out of breath.

Incredibly enough, Louie Mosca, director of data collection, sales and service for Walker Information, the marketing outfit that came up with those glowing survey results for CPA, tells me that of 50 CPA clients who responded to the survey, only "about four or five were outright not very happy with their service."

Mosca says the CPA also scored very high on solving client problems, and that compared to past surveys, the 96 per cent approval rating is not even the best he's seen.

But it's a lot easier to speak out against an agency when you're no longer associated with it and there's no chance of retribution. As someone who is totally reliant on others for my most basic needs, I'm not sure I'd be writing this if I still needed CPA's help to get out of bed each morning.

NOW | APR 8 - 14, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 32


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