This week, we are seeing two sides to our seniors.
With the B.C. Seniors’ Games arriving, the largest sporting event ever held in Kamloops, we are celebrating their life-long commitment to fitness and self-challenge.
These are people between 55 and 94 years of age who have remained vibrant and active; one 94-year-old woman athlete has become known for her defiance of the latter stages of aging and has set numerous world records.
But a darker side to seniors’ lives has arisen this week and it serves as a reminder that those who are vulnerable need better care.
In Vernon on Sunday night, an 85-year-old man died in a care home and his 95-year-old roommate has been charged with murder.
The circumstances aren’t far from what happened to Jack Shippobotham, a 79-year-old
Kamloops man who went into Overlander
Extended Care Hospital in February due to dementia and was attacked after he wandered into the room of a brain-injured man in the same unit.
Three weeks later, Shippobotham died from his injuries and related complications.
That case is still under investigation by the RCMP, the coroners service and Interior Health.
These are not just coincidence or isolated occurrences. How common it is, however, is unknown. A recent Freedom of Information and Privacy request to Interior Health for patient-on-patient violence numbers in IHA facilities or IHA-licensed facilities got a response that the reporting systems couldn’t directly produce a report. Someone would have to go through 3,000 pages of records to gather the data.
In other words, Interior Health (and presumably the other health authorities) doesn’t keep track of the number of patient-on-patient violence cases.
We need accountability for those seniors and for the health authorities to start keeping track of what happens to them in residential care, not excuses about 3,000 pages of records and no automated way to go through them.
The Health Ministry says the authorities have inspectors to investigate patient or family complaints. That’s great for residents who are capable of speaking up for themselves, or who have family members to check in on them regularly.
However, many seniors in residential care don’t have advocates and can’t speak for themselves. And there are seniors experiencing violence and even dying in residential care.
With the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers growing older and dementia on the rise, the problem of conflicts between residents in care is going to increase, too.
So while we should acknowledge the efforts and the hard work of the seniors who are in town this week to compete and build camaraderie, we shouldn’t forget those who aren’t there.
Celebrate the strong, but remember the vulnerable.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.