The October death of an Ottawa man and murder charge against a fellow nursing home resident are reminders that facilities need to be able to manage patients with dementia, says the Alzheimer's Society of Ontario's head.
David Harvey, president of the Alzheimer's Society of Ontario, said incidents of such extreme violence are not common. But in some cases, certain triggers can bring about aggressive behaviour in patients with dementia, he said.
"Resident-to-resident violence is something that staff of those facilities have to cope with and be able to manage, [as] it's the course of the disease for a certain number of people," said Harvey.
On Wednesday, 84-year-old Peter Lee of Ottawa was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Frank Moir, 88. Both resided at the Peter D. Clark long-term-care home at Meridian Place in Nepean.
Doctors at Lee's court appearance testified he has Alzheimer's, and the judge ordered a 30-day assessment to determine if he's fit to stand trial.
Harvey said the incident is likely to be heart-wrenching for the families of both men.
"The tragedy of the disease is that I'm sure both of these gentleman were exactly that for most of their lives," he said. "To have one incur violence on the other... I'm sure it is totally out of character for him. And that is part of the sadness of it."
4 incidents a day in 2006
Moir's body was found in his room at the Peter D. Clark long-term-care home at Meridian Place in Nepean around 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 21. Two days later, police ruled the death a homicide.
A CBC Marketplace investigation in 2007 found that the number of violent incidents between residents in Ontario had tripled from 2003 to 2006, from 446 to 1,416 cases, or about four a day, according to Ontario government documents.
In recent years, there has been an effort to design facilities to avoid the triggers that sometimes cause patients with dementia to lash out, such as showing frustration, disorientation and fear.
But this death occurred in just such a model facility.
The Alzheimer's Society of Ontario helped design Willow House, the section of the nursing home where both men resided.
Harvey said even taking precautions, no setting can prevent all violence.