By Joe Fries
An 83-year-old woman died in mid-December from injuries sustained at her Keremeos seniors home, police announced Wednesday, making her the second elderly person in the Interior Health region to die last month in a violent encounter while in care.
The victim in Keremeos died Dec. 13 after receiving medical care stemming from an unspecified “incident” Nov. 30 at an unnamed facility, according to a press release issued by Mounties.
She died just six days before a 90-year-old woman died following an altercation with another resident at Spring Valley Care Centre in Kelowna.
The RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit and BC Coroners Service are now handling the Keremeos investigation, and police aren’t planning to release more information.
South Okanagan RCMP spokesman Const. James Grandy did not respond to a request for more details about the nature of the incident.<
Cindy Kozak-Campbell, executive director of residential services for Interior Health, declined for privacy reasons to provide specifics about the incident, except to say it involved two residents.
She said the cases in Keremeos and Kelowna are unrelated, and doesn’t believe a trend is developing.
“It’s very unusual to have an incident that may have resulted in harm,” said Ms. Kozak-Campbell, who also sought to calm fears about the safety of residential care.
“I really want to reassure everyone that they should feel safe with their loved ones in care homes. These are very unusual incidents,” she said.
Global Okanagan identified the Keremeos victim as Marilyn Claire Anderson, a resident of Orchard Haven.
The TV station quoted an unnamed family member who stated the incident that led to Anderson’s death involved violence by another resident. The family member also expressed frustration with a lack of information about what happened.
“The police are still investigating; we still don’t really know what happened to our mother because Interior Health hasn’t told us anything,” he told Global Okanagan, noting it was the family who alerted police two days after the incident.
B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said such cases highlight the need for increased staff training on how to defuse aggressive situations.
“While these incidents do happen, they’re not happening every day at every care home in the province,” she told The Daily Courier.
According to data obtained by her office, there were 425 reports of resident-to-resident aggression in B.C. care homes in 2018, compared to 488 in 2017 and 418 in 2016. There are approximately 28,000 people in residential care across the province.
Training staff in what to do when an incident arises is important because it can be difficult to predict which residents are going to exhibit aggressive behaviours, said Ms. Mackenzie.
“You’re dealing with people who may have been passive people, non-aggressive people all of their lives, but now they have a neurological disease that’s changing them and they become aggressive, and you don’t know that’s going to happen until it does,” she said.
For family members of people in care homes, Ms. Mackenzie encourages them to talk to their loved ones and listen when they have complaints.
“If your loved one is telling you that another resident is not being nice to them, don’t dismiss it,” she said.
Joe Fries is a writer and editor with The Penticton Herald. OsoyoosToday and The Herald share an informal editorial use agreement. Files from The Kelowna Daily Courier are also included.