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What can be learned from Vernon's tragic care home homicide

John Furman, 95, (left) the accused killer, and William May, 85, the deceased.
Image Credit: Contributed
September 01, 2013 - 8:30 AM

VERNON - It's been nearly two weeks since a 95-year-old man with advanced dementia killed his roommate at a Vernon care home, and what have we learned?

The incident has led to more questions than answers. How can a 95-year-old be carted off from a dementia ward to a jail cell? How can he be charged with murder when other patients responsible for fatal attacks remain in care? Are care homes safe? Could this have been prevented?

What we know for sure after talking to Interior Health, the B.C. Nurses Union, and a former psychiatric nurse at the Polson Special Care Unit, is there are no easy answers. Safely providing the basics of feeding, washing, dressing in long term care is complicated. Add the unpredictability of behavioural and psychiatric issues and you can see how nurses and patients are often victims of assault.

It's messy. There are no bad guys. But we all have an interest in finding a better way. As the widow of a Kamloops man who died at the hands of a fellow patient says, "We could be in there ourselves one day."

Pulling back the curtain revealed stories about patients suffering black eyes and broken teeth and others beating nurses so badly they suffered permanent brain damage. Interior Health was guarded on the issues, but agreed assaults are an unfortunate reality in long-term care homes.

The B.C. Nurses Union says assaults are just one more symptom of staffing shortages and inadequately trained staff, and while that may be true, a psychiatric nurse who used to work at the Polson Special Unit believes there are inherent and unavoidable risks.

There's no one authority who can give us the answer. But that doesn't mean we should stop asking questions. They are what bring justice to those we have lost: a father to death, and a decorated war veteran to an incurable disease.

We leave you to reach your own questions and answers, informed by these interviews with police, Interior Health, nurses, and those who knew the deceased and the accused killer.

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To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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