West Kelowna mother finally gets her dying son transferred | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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West Kelowna mother finally gets her dying son transferred

Jonathan Johnstone has a severe and aggressive form of dementia and living in a facility in Duncan.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Devon Johnstone

Devon Johnstone is finally getting her son back.

The West Kelowna woman had been trying for more than a year to get her son Jonathan, 61, who has a severe and aggressive form of dementia, moved to a health care facility in the Okanagan. A year ago, he was taken to a mental health facility on Vancouver Island after a brief encounter with RCMP, not as part of a criminal investigation.

That meant Devon, at age 78, had to drive and ferry across the province just to see him. She has been trying to get him moved to facilities closer to her home but felt stonewalled by Interior Health and Island Health, which couldn’t explain why he wasn’t transferred. Neither her MLA nor even letters to Health Minister Adrian Dix could get things going.

But since our story last week, things moved quickly. The day after the story was published, Devon got a phone call from Island Health.

“They said that he will be coming soon to Kelowna,” she says. “And I said ‘well what makes you think that’ because you know they've got lots of waiting lists I'm sure and they said ‘oh because he's urgent and he'll go ahead of ahead of them.’ I said ‘well what brought this on all of a sudden,' but they wouldn't tell me. So I think it's got something to do with your story.

“I’ve been waiting here for a year. So yeah, I was shocked.”

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One of the logjams might have been because he was in a mental health facility. Now he’s being transferred to long-term care.

Unfortunately for Devon, though, their ability to communicate has long been lost. She was told Jonathan’s front lobe shrunk 70%. He can’t speak and doesn’t seem to have much awareness of what’s going on around him.

Eighteen months ago, he was a skilled carpenter in demand, working on furniture and kayaks, even a luxury yacht. Now, somehow, he manages to do jigsaw puzzles.

He hasn’t recognized her from Zoom calls in months and can only use a few words.

She’s not sure what she’s going to find when he gets to Kelowna, but it will be better than it was.

“I just want to be able to see him,” she says.

She made the day-long trip to see him on Vancouver Island four times, but it was taking a toll on her. She knows she can’t do much anymore but settle her own heart by being there for him, not allowing him to die in a hospital bed hours away. And now that she’s done battling bureaucracy, she can focus.

“(The dementia) is shocking because it happened so fast, you know? Health-wise — he's healthy. Like, he's super healthy. He's always been healthy all his life. He's never been to a bloody hospital. He's never even had a medical or a doctor or anything. But now, because his brain is deteriorating so much, they said that he won't be able to go to the bathroom by himself, he won't be able to feed himself, he won't be able to do anything by himself.

“It’s so sad.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones or call 250-718-2724 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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