August 26, 2013 - 12:42 PM
"WE HAVE NO HARD FEELINGS FOR THE RESIDENT WHO COMMITTED THE ASSAULT"
VERNON - Three Okanagan brothers never thought their dad's death would be accompanied by a police investigation, a press conference, and the question of whether or not it could have been prevented.
Phil, Paul and Scott May are mourning the death of their father William "Bill" May, 85, who was killed in the night while he slept. He and his attacker, John Furman, 95, were both residents at the Polson Special Care Unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, a ward for patients with behavioural or psychiatric issues in addition to their dementia. Now, May is dead and Furman, a decorated war veteran, is undergoing a psychiatric assessment in Kamloops to determine if he can be found criminally responsible for second degree murder.
"We have no hard feelings for the resident who committed this assault," Paul says. "He could not have been motivated by any personal animosity towards Bill, and we believe it was a random tragic act driven by his dementia and possibly some latent war trauma."
Paul recalls the police knocking on his door at 1 a.m. with the news. Along with his brother Scott, he went to the care home that morning. Few details were given, but staff and the coroner gave their condolences.
"We all agreed it was a tragedy," Paul says.
A week later, the family has learned more about their dad's final moments. He was asleep, and played no part in the assault. Beyond that, they are keeping the details of what happened to themselves.
"(We) have been very busy trying to put him to rest, a process many have had to face, but in this case, very much complicated by the circumstances of his death," Paul says.
"If we speak at all about how we feel, if we think there may have been some way of preventing this incident, it is only to help others avoid experiencing a similar fate, and by that we mean not just the victim, but the families, and the staff that are there when we are not—they are family to these people too."
Son Scott May would like to see Interior Health take a serious look at the recommendations of an ombudsman's report into senior's care published last year.
“I hope there’s something that can be done to prevent this from happening again but it’s a tough population because of dementia and the potential for aggression," he says.
The brothers say this wasn't their dad's first time being assaulted in the care home. During his two years there, he sustained a black eye and lost a couple teeth.
Locked doors and single rooms have been suggested as ways to minimize the risk of patient conflict, but the brothers say that might restrict mobility.
“If you strapped people into wheelchairs, it could be prevented," Paul says. "But is that what you want?"
The family isn't ruling out legal action, but right now, they're concentrating on putting Bill to rest. His sons learned a lot from him: hard work, independence, tenacity.
"He was generous but not frivolous, except when it came to my mom, for whom he bought more clothes than anyone needed...," Paul says.
The brothers have fond memories of fishing for hours at a cabin their dad built himself.
Bill moved to Vernon in 1969 where he helped build and operate the Consumers Glass plant in Lavington.
"He didn't have a university degree and got himself there by his own tenacity, hard work and intelligence," Scott says.
To his family, he will be remembered as a hero.
"Much has been said about Mr. Furman being a war hero, and for that we honour him," Paul says. "However, you need to know that dad was also a hero to many, to his staff, to his wife and his children."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
William "Bill" May loved to fish with his sons.
Image Credit: Paul May
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013