October 02, 2013 - 5:07 PM
KAMLOOPS - What is it like to celebrate your birthday in a secured tertiary psychiatric ward?
We wondered what things were like for John Furman, the Vernon senior charged with the murder of his roommate, as he turned 95 on September 21. Furman, who suffers advanced dementia, has been at the Hillside Centre in Kamloops since August 21, awaiting a psychiatric assessment. The results will determine if he can be held criminally responsible for the crime. The decorated war veteran has no living relatives.
Interior Health couldn’t tell us anything about Furman specifically, but they did explain a bit about how things work at Hillside. Darshan Lindsay, a public affairs manager for Interior Health, suggested thinking about the centre as a hospital for those with severe mental health issues. Patients are there because they require treatment which cannot be provided at regular nursing homes. The goal is to discharge them in better health than they come in with.
Patients don’t call Hillside home. It’s a stepping stone where doctors attempt to resolve their medical issues. They can’t stay forever.
While there, they have their meals cooked for them, their beds made. It’s more of a hospital setting than an assisted living care home. There are some group areas and a patio where patients can get fresh air, though depending on their condition, they may not be eligible for these luxuries for safety reasons. Every case is different, and IHA spokespeople couldn’t say if Furman is permitted to mingle with other patients.
An anonymous registered nurse who used to work at Hillside was able to give us a bit more detail about the facility. She doubts Furman is being confined to his room 100 per cent of the time, though he may be at times for his and for others’ safety. In general, she says staff try not to isolate patients.
“The rooms are nice and the building doesn't have an institutional feel to it....” she says. “He is way better off in hillside than some other places or cells.”
The building is designed with a common area and dining room in the centre, and single rooms—which can be locked—spread out around it. There’s television and music. She says staff are “usually good” and likely recognized Furman’s birthday. They would have “tried to make it special for him” and might even have had cake.
While Hillside functions as a temporary residence, she says patients are encouraged to personalize their rooms with a few touches of home.
“Jack would be able to... put up pictures or things in his room that would remind him of his past if someone forwarded them to him,” she says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
— Corrections were made to this article at 11 a.m. Nov. 27, including the headline. An earlier version stated John Furman turned 96 during his stay at Hillside. It was in fact his 95th birthday. Police initially stated he was 95 at the time of his arrest, while he was actually 94. We apologize for the error.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013