Gone, but not forgotten

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Justin Crann
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Szwagierczak family upset over loss of father's belongings

Kathy Jensen doesn't know what happened to the majority of her father Steven Szwagierczak's belongings after he died in April.

Steven Szwagierczak's daughters, Kristine Szwagierczak and Kathy Jensen, are frustrated after the belongings of their father were allegedly misplaced by the Extendicare facility in Moose Jaw. Extendicare refused to comment on the Szwagierczak situation specifically, but said the organization does have a policy for dealing with the belongings of a deceased resident.

Jensen, who lives in Alberta, and her sister Kristine Szwagierczak, who lives in British Columbia, have been trying to recover Szwagierczak's possessions since he died while living in the Extendicare home in Moose Jaw.

"We're not exactly sure what happened with his belongings," Jensen told the Times-Herald in a phone interview. "He had a TV in his room, and that was still there. ... The clock I mounted on the wall for him was still there. We got those two things. But the personal stuff ... we never did get it back."

The personal items Jensen lists included photographs, her father's glasses, and his clothing - "the last stuff he had his hands on," she said.

When she came to collect the items, she said, "we were given too many different stories," including that her father's items had been donated, put in the garbage, or stored in one of several different places.

Jensen said she contacted Extendicare administration, but was told after an investigation that because her family hadn't properly filled out some discharge papers and didn't come to claim Steven's belongings "for a month," the items couldn't be returned.

When the Times-Herald contacted Extendicare Moose Jaw's administrator, Rhonda Farley, she said the home "does have a policy ... a process in place for when items aren't picked up by family," but refused to discuss the details of a specific family's case.

According to Farley, "Items (of Extendicare residents) are stored and marked with the name of the resident, and a form is used to indicate where those items are kept until they're picked up by a family member.

"Unfortunately, when items are left for an extended period of time, they have a greater potential to be disposed of due to the busy nature of our business and lack of storage space in a facility," she added, taking care to note that this may or may not have been the case with Steven Szwagierczak's belongings.

"It is our intention to work with families who pass away to ensure ... they acquire those items," added Farley. "If our process breaks down, we sincerely apologize to any family member because they are who is impacted."

However, Jensen said, even though the bulk of her father's personal items were not returned, she also wasn't given an apology.

"She basically said if I didn't leave, she was calling the cops," she said.

"It's hard enough for this to happen, never mind being treated like we were the ones who did something wrong."

Farley said Extendicare "wants to work with people to ensure that we do everything we can to make things right." However, Jensen said the incident had just made the already difficult situation of losing her father even harder.

"Moose Jaw isn't the Friendly City anymore," she said. "The people I've dealt with - everyone - I have had to battle with. ... I never want to go back there again. It's rough now. The city is rough."

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Alberta, British Columbia Friendly

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  • Janet Warner
    May 23, 2014 - 20:36

    Regarding the story of "Gone, But Not Forgotten" - I fail to see how this 'story' warranted a full page of your newspaper. Extendicare's policy regarding the disposal of belongings of a deceased person is not unreasonable. Certainly the family could have managed to abide by that policy, and consequently the family has no grounds to feel victimized by Extendicare.