Attacks by seniors with dementia prompt investigation

After two deaths resulting from seniors with dementia attacking other patients in care homes, the B.C. Coroners Service has launched an investigation.

B.C. Coroners Service investigates 2 deaths in seniors' homes

A court found John Furman, seen here in a photograph on display at the Vernon Museum, was in a delusional state when his roommate at a care home was attacked and killed. (CBC) (CBC)

The B.C. Coroners Service will investigate the level of care in two B.C. seniors' homes following two deadly attacks earlier this year on seniors at the homes by other patients with dementia.   

Investigators will look into the conditions at Vernon’s Polson Care Facility and Overlander Extended Care Hospital in Kamloops that allowed patients suffering from dementia to attack other residents.              

A second-degree murder charge against 95-year-old John Furman was stayed Wednesday, after the Crown found Furman was in a delusional state when he attacked and killed his 85-year-old roommate, William May, in August. Furman suffered from severe dementia.

In a similar incident in Kamloops this June, 79-year-old Jack Shippobotham sustained injuries from an attack by another patient resulting in a broken hip and nose. He died of those injuries three weeks later.

"So we need to look at whether there was anything going on that maybe we could make some recommendations that would be reasonable or practical and might prevent future deaths in similar circumstances," said B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson Barb McClintock.

Shippobotham's daughter, Moneca Jantzen, has called for changes to the way seniors with dementia are managed in care homes. She wants specialty wards with added security for patients who suffer from delusional episodes.

"It's a very difficult illness to handle," she said.

Jantzen said four other families shared similar stories of attacks with her.

The investigation could result in a coroner's inquest, a death review panel, or a coroner's report to the institutions that were in care of the victims.


With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan


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