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Family believes death of missing Salmon Arm senior with dementia was preventable

Christopher Allbury was last seen getting dropped off outside his care facility in Salmon Arm around 1:30 a.m. and was found dead two weeks later.
Image Credit: RCMP handout


SALMON ARM - A Salmon Arm man believes a 30 second phone call could have saved his brother’s life.

Tony Allbury’s 70-year-old brother Christopher went missing after a hospital visit and was found dead roughly two weeks later in some bushes about a block away from his independent living facility in Salmon Arm, May 20.

Christopher was diagnosed with alcoholic dementia about ten years ago and had been a resident at McGuire Lake Congregate Living for the past four years, Tony says. 

“It was a mixed bag with him. Sometimes he was good, sometimes he was bad and it didn’t take much to set him off,” Tony says, adding the condition worsened when his brother drank alcohol.

McGuire Lake provides some support to residents but does not oversee their care 24 hours a day and is considered an independent living environment.

Around 11 p.m. on May 5, Christopher was taken to Shuswap Lake General Hospital after complaining of knee pain. It’s unclear why he didn’t stay the night, but only a few hours later, Christopher was discharged from hospital.

“Whatever the event, they turned him out at 1:30 a.m., they gave him a voucher and put him in a cab,” Tony says.

Christopher was last seen at 1:30 a.m. outside the doors of McGuire Lake, which were locked at the time. Tony says his brother likely didn’t have his keys at the time, or he would have made it into the building. Instead, he wandered off and despite the efforts of police and Search and Rescue, wasn't found for two weeks. 

For its part, the home didn’t know Christopher was even released from hospital until staff phoned a couple days later to check up on him. Now, Tony can’t help but wonder if a 30 second courtesy call from the hospital to the home could have prevented Christopher’s death. 

“If there’s any fault at all it’s in the lack of communication when the hospital didn’t notify anyone he was released,” Tony says. “Why would you send a man home with alcoholic dementia at 1:30 a.m. without notifying someone to make sure he gets there?”

According to Interior Health, hospital staff are not required required to do so. Health Services Manager Peter du Toit confirms Christopher was given a taxi voucher to help get him home, but couldn’t comment on any further specifics about the incident.

“Generally, when patients come into emergency they are assessed by nurses and the physician. If an individual is deemed capable of making decisions and is living in an independent living facility, they are free to leave on their own,” du Toit says.

He says the assessment would include consideration of medical conditions such as dementia. If Christopher had been living in a full care facility, the discharge process would have been different. More steps are taken when individuals residing in care homes that provide 24 hour care, seven days a week are discharged from hospital, including contact between the hospital and the care facility, du Toit says. 

He says proper procedure was followed in the discharge process for Christopher, but Interior Health still reviewed the incident to see if anything could be learned. 

“In these types of tragic circumstances we always reflect on the procedures we have in place,” du Toit says.

He wouldn't comment on the possibility of any policy changes arising out of the tragedy. 

It’s not good enough for Tony, who feels hospital staff should be required to notify care homes when patients, particularly those with dementia, are released in the future.

“I think it would save a lot of grief for people,” Tony says. “This is becoming more frequent because of the aging demographic. People are getting lost.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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