After the death of an elderly man at a Vernon care home on Sunday, a woman, whose husband died after he was attacked at a care home in Kamloops, says the province needs to do a better job of protecting seniors with dementia from violence at the hands of other patients.

"Oh not again. That was my first thought" said Vera Shippobotham.

Earlier this summer, Shippobotham says her husband Jack succumbed to injuries he suffered after being attacked by another patient at a residential care facility.


John Furman, seen here in a photograph on display at the Vernon Museum, is facing charges for allegedly killing his roommate at a residential care home in Vernon, B.C. (CBC)

She says the weekend incident in Vernon sounds alarmingly similar to what happened to her husband.

RCMP announced on Tuesday morning that John Furman, 95, has been charged with murder, after arresting him on Sunday at Interior Health's Polson Special Care Facility — a secure facility that provides care for people who have dementia complicated by psychiatric and behavioural issues.

The victim, whose name has not been released, died on the scene of his injuries and Interior Health has launched an internal investigation.

But Shippobotham isn't satisfied and she wants the province to improve safety for seniors at care homes.

"We feel that the [Interior Health Authority], they have these meetings, they listen and you spill your guts and they tell you how sorry they are, and somehow you go away feeling kind of empty that you haven't really heard anything positive."

SFU gerontology researcher Charmaine Spencer says B.C. needs more specialized training for people working with dementia patients to prevent more attacks.

"Not only do they have to have the training, but they need to have the practice with it, on a regular basis," said Spencer, pointing to a program pioneered in Ontario called P.I.E.C.E.S as a better model.

B.C's Ministry of Health says the program is being piloted in B.C. and will be rolled out throughout the province.

Cutbacks worry advocates

But Martha Jane Lewis, executive director of the B.C Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support, says the training isn't thorough enough.

"At the moment it's online self-training. It really needs to be taught fully to all staff at all levels within a housing complex," she said.

Linda Hansen, a former geriatric nurse, says there is a disturbing trend of cutbacks in the number of nurses in B.C. caring for patients.

"The ratio for care aid to client is one to 11, so that caregiver has to provide total care for those 11 people," said Hansen, who spent 25 years caring for patients with cognitive disorders.   

The Ministry of Health also said it has a dementia action plan which puts in place new guidelines to better manage the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia to give physicians, nurses, health care providers and care providers additional tools and resources.

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan. You can follow him on twitter @BradyStrachan