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Documentary exposes shocking suffering at for-profit nursing homes

National Film Board's Stolen Time follows elder rights lawyer Melissa Miller tackle corporate greed and bring justice to families

Stolen Time, a riveting documentary about shocking systemic failures and suffering at for-profit nursing care homes, receives its Edmonton premiere at  MetroCinema on March 24 and 26. 

Director and writer Helene Klodawsky spent four years filming Stolen Time, the uphill legal battle of a Toronto lawyer who takes on the for-profit nursing home industry. It is ultimately a compelling call for justice for seniors who suffered senselessly and angry families who feel victimized by a system designed to protect the industry.    

One of the most horrifying stories is of 90-year-old woman with a pressure injury in her back. Over a period of one year, she slowly develops a green infection that eats a hole in her back the size of a woman’s fist. Her daughter, who took photos of the negligence, states she could see her mother’s “tail bone.” 

In another outrageous case, a 75-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's falls. Unfortunately, she is unable to speak and no one at the nursing home could tell her son what happened. The son eventually discovers his mother suffered a stroke and broke her neck and humerus (upper arm bone). She lay in bed suffering agonizing pain without a painkiller for six days. 

“There’s this ageist attitude that old people aren’t worth much,” said Melissa Miller, a feisty elder rights lawyer who is preparing a mass tort case involving several hundred families who have grievances against the powerful for-profit industry. 

Miller’s mass tort case is aimed squarely at three major for-profit corporations: Extendicare, Revera Co., and Sienna Senior Living. All three corporations list portfolios in Alberta. 

“I started as a personal injury lawyer and discovered older victims were treated differently. I had a few nursing home cases. Most lawyers don’t take them on because they’re not worth very much. My evolution started when I tried to reframe the issues, and I tried to push the envelope on damages and create more public awareness,” said Miller. 

“I want to change the legislation and demand a better level of care and I want to demand federal national standards. Elected national representatives have an obligation to listen and respond to you.” 

Believing the for-profit nursing home industry operates with a lack of transparency and accountability, Miller hires Brett Righy, a private investigator to gather information and evidence. 

In digging through corporate records, he discovers Extendicare earned $1.1 billion in revenue in 2019. Its final earnings were $91 million with $42 million paid out in cash dividends to shareholders. 

Revera’s money trail, on the other hand, takes a different path. The Canadian company with businesses in the United States and United Kingdom was a publicly traded company until 2007 when it was fully purchased by the Public Sector Investment Pension Board (PSIPB) 

The PSIPB is a Crown corporation for the Government of Canada that manages pensions for all civil servants, the Canadian Forces, the Reserve Forces and RCMP. Revera does not publish profits. However, as Revera’s parent company, PSIPB has listed profits of $25 billion. 

“What Revera is doing is growing the pension fund of retired civil servants by extracting money from care provided to seniors,” Miller said. 

In addition to handling three mass tort cases, Miller also takes on independent clients such as St. Albert resident Wade Faulkner. His father, John, a tough drilling consultant who retired from a long career on the rigs, died in 2018 from an infection.  

John, 82, spent his time between Slave Lake and Athabasca. In 2017, he collapsed at his home, completely losing the use of his legs. When neighbours discovered John, he was rushed to University of Alberta Hospital where tests revealed a tumour in his spine which caused permanent paralysis.

“But he wasn’t the type to complain about the pain,” said Wade. “Because he lost the use of his legs, he was bedridden. He eventually was transferred to Athabasca Hospital where he stayed for a few months. He developed some bedsores from the University of Alberta, but Athabasca treated him with compression bandage to pull the poison out,” Wade explained. 

Athabasca Hospital has an auxiliary unit beside the main building for long-term care patients, but there were no beds available. Extendicare Athabasca had one bed and John was moved into it, Wade said. 

“My concern was that they wouldn’t look after the bedsore, and it would get back to what it was at the University Hospital. Athabasca Hospital had really cleaned it up and it healed fairly well.” 

Seven weeks after John was admitted to Extendicare nursing home, he was readmitted to Athabasca Hospital with an infection. Three days later he died. 

“My father and I trusted that Extendicare could care for his health needs,” said Wade, visibly angry about his father’s death. 

In May 2020, he signed an agreement with Miller to represent him in an independent lawsuit. He keeps every letter, email and photo related to the Extendicare case. 

“Every time you go back and look at the records, it triggers memories. It’s flippin’ awful,” Wade said. 

“From my perspective, for-profit long-term care shouldn’t exist. It could be privately operated, but not for-profit where you have to satisfy shareholders before seniors.” 

Five years after his father’s death, Wade continues to ride a roller-coaster of emotions. 

“I couldn’t leave it alone. It didn’t feel right. I had to do something and get change. I don’t have any thoughts that my case is significant, but at least I spoke up. I hope the documentary encourages others to come forward and pursue a call for change.”  

Produced by Intuitive Pictures and the National Film Board, Stolen Time screenings are at MetroCinema on Sunday, March 24 at 3:30 p.m. and on March 26 at 7 p.m. 

MetroCinema is in Garneau Theatre, 8712 – 109 St. Tickets are $11 to $15. Call 780-425-9212 or online at

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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