CW: Abuse & neglect
Malinda Phillips and Jonathon Grunewald of Calgary, Alberta, recently pleaded guilty to neglecting their 29-year-old son with Cerebral Palsy. He was brought to a hospital in October 2020, suffering from hypothermia, sepsis, and weighed only 43 lbs. Fortunately, their son survived. Too many disabled people die due to neglect.
His parents were offered home healthcare but refused it because they didn’t believe it would benefit their son. Home health care allows many disabled people the freedom to live in their communities. Without my PCAs, I wouldn’t be able to live in my apartment.
Home health care workers are vital to keeping disabled people out of nursing homes and other facilities. Home health services are available for people who need them. Unfortunately, home health care workers can be challenging to find. This is partly due to low wages in the profession. In the United States, PCAs and other home healthcare workers make a mere $13.02 an hour nationwide.
As someone with Cerebral Palsy, this story shocks and saddens me. This young man’s mother left him bedridden, and he hadn’t used a wheelchair in years. Non-disabled people often see mobility aids as limiting. For me, my power wheelchair and walker do the opposite. Because of my equipment, I’m not bedridden. I can go out to the stores, visit family and friends and eat at restaurants because of my equipment.
This young man was also denied food and drinks, which probably contributed to his poor health. Proper nutrition is essential for all people, especially disabled people. Some people with CP can have issues with acid reflux and constipation, both of which can be managed with dietary changes and a doctor’s care. Crown prosecutor Janice Walsh said that the victim’s mother “didn’t trust the medical community.”
People with CP often need to be monitored by a team of different professionals. I am fortunate to have a fantastic care team who all try their best to help me maintain a good quality of life, ranging from my primary care physician to my physiatrist to my physical therapist. Without their help, my quality of life would be much poorer. I would risk contractures and muscle atrophy if I didn’t have PT or a home exercise program. If I didn’t have access to Botox injections or other procedures, my mobility would be much more limited, or I may not be able to use a walker at all anymore.
Thankfully, their son is now living in a facility where he is reportedly doing well. He has gained weight, and his mobility has increased. Disabled people like this young man all deserve the best quality of life they can, and it saddens me that his parents didn’t provide this care.
Del Giudice, E et al. “Gastrointestinal manifestations in children with cerebral palsy.” Brain & development vol. 21,5 (1999): 307-11. doi:10.1016/s0387-7604(99)00025-x
Graveland , Bill. “’I’m Sorry’: Calgary Parents Plead Guilty to Neglect of Disabled Adult Son.” CTV News, CTV News, 22 Jan. 2022, https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/i-m-sorry-calgary-parents-plead-guilty-to-neglect-of-disabled-adult-son-1.5750924.
“Home Health and Personal Care Aides : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides-and-personal-care-aides.htm.