VERNON, B.C. — Family members of an 85-year-old man who died after an attack at a facility for dementia patients in the Okanagan city of Vernon, B.C., have expressed sympathy for the suspect and for staff members who dealt with the tragedy’s aftermath.
Bill May was a patient at Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s residential care facility when he died after an incident Aug. 18.
John Furman, a 95-year-old veteran of the Second World War, is facing a murder charge in connection with the case.
During an emotional meeting with the media on Monday, sons Paul May and Scott May called their dad a hero but noted he also experienced several physical confrontations during his two years as a resident of the care home.
Hospital officials are now going to have to ask themselves whether similar tragedies can be prevented in the future, they said.
“We also have no hard feelings for the resident who committed the assault,” Paul May told reporters, noting the incident was a tragedy for all involved. “He could not have been motivated by any personal animosity towards Bill.”
But Scott May questioned whether the provincial government and health officials have done all they could have following a report in early 2012 by BC Ombudsperson Kim Carter.
The 448-page report, The Best of Care: Getting it Right for Seniors in British Columbia, made 143 findings and 176 recommendations about seniors’ care in the province.
Scott May said it appears that not all the recommendations were followed.
“That concerns me,” he said, adding he hopes something can be done to prevent future tragedies.
“It’s a tough population to deal with because of the dementia and potential for aggression,” he said. “So when you’re putting them all together — and I’m not saying you shouldn’t — it’s a bit of a recipe for, you know, potential troubles, and in this case it did.”
He said he doesn’t want other families to go through a similar experience.
The family learned about what had happened when police came to their door at about 1 a.m. Aug. 19. That’s when Paul May was told his dad was dead following an incident with another resident.
He said his father had been asleep in his bed when the alleged assault occurred.
His dad was the son of a First World War veteran, a brother to three siblings, a father to three sons, and a husband for 57 years, he said. He was also a local businessman who worked hard, provided well for his family and was generous but not frivolous.
In fact, he said his father started a local glass plant in 1969, providing jobs and opportunity to the community before retiring in 1989.
Scott May said even though his father didn’t have a university degree, he ascended into a management position in business, a position he arrived at through tenacity, hard work, intelligence, care and passion.
But during his final years, Bill May suffered from dementia and didn’t know who his family was during visits, although he was mobile and in good health, said Paul May.
Nonetheless, he had some kind words for care-home staff.
“Our experience was that the staff are committed and caring group of people, always able to maintain an upbeat atmosphere, speaking kindly but not in a patronizing manner to the residents,” he added. “They spoke fondly of dad, even though he could get agitated at times, though likely no worse nor better than the others.”
Still, Paul May called his father’s death sudden and unexpected.
“Dad was also a hero. He was a hero to many, a hero to his staff, to his wife and his children.”