‘It came as a shock’: family grieves loss of senior after injuries sustained at Keremeos care home

83-year-old dementia patient Marilyn Claire Anderson died 13 days after an altercation with another patient at a care home in Keremeos.
83-year-old dementia patient Marilyn Claire Anderson died 13 days after an altercation with another patient at a care home in Keremeos. Courtesy: Providence Funeral Homes

A family member of a dementia patient who died after an apparent violent confrontation with another patient in a Keremeos care home said the grieving family still does not have answers, more than one month after the incident.

Marilyn Claire Anderson, 83, had been residing in the dementia unit at the Orchard Haven seniors’ care facility since Apr. 23, 2018. She previously lived independently in Princeton, B.C.

“It came as a shock,” said the family member who spoke to Global Okanagan but asked that his name not be used.

“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 said.

Keremeos RCMP, the Interior Health Authority (IHA) and the BC Coroner’s Service are investigating Anderson’s untimely death.

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Cst. James Grandy confirmed in a press release issued on Wednesday that the victim sustained injuries in a Keremeos care home on Nov. 30.

“The victim, aged 83, passed away on Dec. 13, 2018, following medical care relating to the incident that occurred at the care facility on Nov. 30, 2018,” he said.

Cindy Kozak-Campbell, executive director of long-term care services with Interior Health, said the agency is reviewing an “incident” involving two individuals at the facility.

“We are very sorry for this family’s loss and have been in direct contact with them. Our Patient Care Quality Office will continue to connect with the family,” she said in an email.

The victim’s family expressed anguish and frustration at the lack of information they have received on what happened to their loved one.

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“Anybody would like to know the details and the situation and to find out exactly what happened and why, if there is anything being done to prevent it, so it doesn’t happen again to somebody else,” the family member said.

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The victim’s family was told the health authority has 40 days to complete its review.

“We would like to know what happened to our mother, it’s a care facility.”

Kozak-Campbell said the cause of death will be determined by the coroner.

The family member said he contacted the RCMP to investigate two days after the incident, after he learned the health authority did not inform police.

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“I can say that the safety of individuals in our care homes is our top priority and we are taking this review seriously,” Kozak-Campbell said.

“Without speaking to this specific case, I can say that a care home would look at the care plans for an individual or individuals involved in an incident and adjust those care plans as appropriate.”

The health official said the population living in care homes is diverse, with complex care needs and conditions that are unpredictable.

Kozak-Campbell said behaviour of individuals who have been passive all their lives can change without notice based on neurological conditions related to aging, such as Alzheimer’s.

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“While incidents related to those behaviours that result in death are rare, appropriate care for those with behaviours as a result of dementia or other cognitive problems continues to be a key focus for IH,” she said.

“Interior Health continues to take steps to improve our ability to support individuals with behaviours and to ensure all individuals in care homes are receiving the care they need in a safe environment.  This includes ensuring staff have the knowledge and skills to care for this specific population. “

Anderson’s celebration of life was held on Saturday, Jan. 5 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Princeton.

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