ENDERBY - Dementia is considered a contributing factor in the death of an Enderby woman.
Barbara Nell Derenowski, 73, was found dead March 4 on a logging road near Douglas Lake after driving many kilometres from her home in Enderby. Her neighbours were shocked and saddened to hear of her passing.
According to a coroner’s report into her death released this week, Derenowski died of hypothermia, but dementia, high cholesterol and hypertension were all listed as contributing factors.
Derenowski, who lived alone with her cats, had recently lost her driver’s license when she couldn’t pass the required exam, coroner Susan Barth says in her report.
“This was explained in depth to Ms. Derenowski by a case worker and it was consistently reinforced that she was no longer able to drive, however, she refused to believe it,” Barth says.
The worker talked to her about moving the truck parked in her Enderby driveway, but she refused to let it go, or give the keys to someone else. Because of her dementia, in February 2014, ‘community supports’ were implemented to assess her mood, provide socialization, assist with activities of daily living including medication, and to help manage risk, Barth says. The next month, she got in her truck and disappeared.
Not long after issuing a missing persons report, fishermen travelling down a road near Douglas Lake found her body. An investigation pieced together some of her final hours and what may have led her up that particular logging road.
It’s believed Derenowski left home on March 3, and stopped briefly at a store in Armstrong before continuing on to Douglas Lake, Barth says. She drove until the truck became stuck in the snow, and then walked 17 km to where she was eventually found. The temperature got down to as low as -12 Celcius that night, and she was only wearing a sweater, lights pants, thin socks and runners.
Years ago, Derenowski reportedly lived and worked on a ranch near where she was found.
No recommendations were made by the B.C. Coroners Service to prevent a future, similar death.
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