Owners of special care home receive death threats after report about separated seniors goes viral

The owners of Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B., have received death threats following media reports about Herbert Goodine, 91, and his wife, Audrey Goodine, 89, who were separated just days before Christmas.

Messages came from all over the world criticizing owners of Victoria Villa Special Care Home

Jennifer Eagan, owner and operator of Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B., says she has received death threats after Herbert Goodine and his wife, Audrey Goodine, were separated after an assessment deemed he needed more care and a Facebook post about their plight went viral. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The owners of a special-care home in New Brunswick have received death threats after a Facebook post about two seniors who were separated just days before Christmas went viral. 

Herbert Goodine, 91, was removed Monday from the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B. where he has lived with Audrey Goodine, 89, his wife of 69 years. They had only a few days notice of the required move after an assessment deemed his dementia needed more care than the location could provide.

We go above and beyond every day and it's really hurtful for someone to say we're abusing seniors.- Jennifer Eagan

Jennifer Eagan, an owner of the home, said Friday things have been difficult for her, her family, and the residents at the special-care home since the post went viral earlier this week.

"It really has been horrifying how people have jumped on this bandwagon to crucify me," she said.

Eagan said she and her mother, a senior herself and Eagan's business partner, have received hundreds of emails and calls containing nasty messages. They came from all over the world.

"We've had death threats. We've had people saying that they wished that we had a horrible Christmas, that they hoped someday we'd go through this with our family. It's been very difficult," she said. "Anything you could possibly imagine, people have said." 

Two sides

The owner said she understands people are upset about what happened, but there are two sides to every story. 

"They are reacting on a purely emotional basis, and I understand that," she said. "I just think there's a better way to tell someone you're unhappy with them, rather than threaten their life." 

Herbert Goodine lived at Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B., shown above, before he was moved to another home for health reasons. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Eagan said she has a lot of local support and she feels safe where she is but does worry what might happen if she goes outside of Perth-Andover and is recognized by someone who is upset. The village of about 1,600 people is located in  western New Brunswick near the border with Maine.

"I've been hesitant to bring the police into it because I don't know what they could possibly do," she said.

Eagan said it's been disappointing and upsetting to read and hear the messages about a situation they had no control over. 

"We take good care of our residents. We go above and beyond every day, and it's really hurtful for someone to say we're abusing seniors," she said.

Post not meant to criticize villa 

Herbert Goodine's daughter, Dianne Phillips, said Friday it was never her intention for the Victoria Villa to take the criticism they've had to take.

Phillips' wrote on Facebook Dec. 17 about her father's required move. The post soon went viral. 

Dianne Phillips, the daughter of Herbert Goodine, said she did not intend for the owners of Victoria Villa to be criticized over her father's short-notice move. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"My intention was to totally focus on the flawed system that seemed to be a blanket policy," she said. "And you know, it just allows seniors to be picked up and moved with barely a chance to say goodbye to the friends that are in that home." 

Herbert Goodine is now at the Tobique Valley Manor in Plaster Rock, a 30-minute drive from his wife.  

Phillips said her father will stay there for the next 30 days until the family can find a new and permanent living arrangement for both her parents. They will be spending Christmas with her in Fredericton, N.B.

Eagan said she wished people would realize there are two sides to every story.

"Most people must realize that," Eagan said. "Nobody ever wants to have to make this decision."

More collaboration needed

Judy Lane, CEO at Kings Way Care Centre, a long-term care facility in southern New Brunswick, said situations like this are challenging for all involved, but more collaboration between organizations could help.

"We unfortunately operate in a continuum of care that's siloed," she said, and it's difficult to navigate through the different options, which include home care, special care homes and nursing homes.

Lane said more collaboration and education for families could produce better outcomes.

"Usually a family is only presented with a situation when generally there is a crisis and then they have to react, and it creates a lot of stress," she said.

Lane said she is hopeful the province will begin looking at ways all levels of care can work together.

"Our seniors deserve the utmost respect and care and we need to remember that they are the people that our focus should be on," she said. "It shouldn't just be focused on the process and rules, it should be about the person and what's important to them." 

With files from Shane Fowler