Written by by Rachel Walker, CNN
In the urban sprawl of Canada’s Kitchener-Waterloo region, the cold siding of a decrepit former nursing home serves as a stark reminder of one of the region’s more pressing social issues: elder abuse.
Residential care homes, typically run by third-party owners, are woefully inadequate when it comes to providing regular healthcare for residents of aging Ontario. The number of such homes in the province has more than tripled since 1997, to become the largest institutional provider of residential care in the country. Most of these homes are private, run by insurance companies or are owned by religious orders, according to a 2017 report from the federal ministry of health. Residents frequently suffer neglect, physical abuse and sexual assault.
If Ontario’s government wants to tackle the problem head-on, it can look no further than the facility across the street. Some have called the building the “untouchable” mansion of the elderly, a cluster of former apartment buildings abandoned since a long-ago fire. Others refer to it as “a burial ground for the vulnerable.”
Few facilities are better suited for ending a lifetime of neglect than what is left over at the still-standing concrete shell of this block house.
Its former owner, the government-funded home known as Eastern Hills Lodge, was once a thriving place of faith and comfort for the elderly, with multiple floors for hospitalization and care. It operated until 2001, when it was forced to close due to a lack of funding.
Now a sprawling open-air nursing home for the elderly, the century-old building is surrounded by white walls covered in utilitarian blues and browns. The door to the attached cafeteria hangs in the locked doorway, signs warn that it’s a noisy environment. The gardens are barely visible through the trees and grass, where chickens, goats and cows gather. Smoke from heating fires wafts through the fields.
A surveillance camera in the back of the dining room has filmed resident Randy Lewis stumbling down the hallway and being swarmed by suspected abuser Richard Holmes. It’s a narrow screen, like those your grandmother may have sat in on with her Nan, but still impossible to view without cutting yourself off from the rest of the world.
Weeks later, on a single March afternoon, McKenzie Mathias got word of what she alleges was another instance of abuse: the corpse of an elderly resident on a picnic table, laying bare on the hard surface.