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Family wants provincial review after vicious nursing home attack

Last Updated Feb 4, 2017 at 12:40 pm EST

An 85-year-old man is in hospital with traumatic injuries, after he was attacked by a fellow resident in a long-term care home in Hamilton.

James Acker’s family says he was asleep in his private room in St. Joseph’s Villa early Sunday morning, when a man who lives on the same floor walked in and starting beating him.

“He was terribly beaten — we’re not talking about one or two punches to the face, we’re talking about several punches repeatedly to his face,” daughter Tammy Carbino told CityNews.

“He has bite marks on his hands, [bruises] on his hands, his cheeks are swollen, his lips were bloodied, and he has stitches in his forehead.”

Carbino said the family is still not clear how the incident occurred, but the resident who attacked her father is a man in his 80s with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“My dad was lying in bed, beaten, screaming for help,” she said.

“It’s really scary to know that there are no tools or strategies in place to diffuse something like this, to stop it from happening in the first place.”

The family believes it’s a disturbing trend in long-term care homes.

“I’m just in shock, that James was not safe there,” Acker’s wife of 45 years Diane said. “There was nothing in place (to protect him).”

This is the second time since he moved into the Dundas-area home 10 months ago that Acker has been attacked by another resident. His family said a female resident walked into his room one evening in September and sexually assaulted him.

“I put the blame on the government, the lack of strategy that’s in place and the standard of care that’s in these homes,” Carbino said. “It’s disgusting that this is an issue in the homes and it’s not being addressed.”

The family said there are still unanswered questions, like if proper protocols were followed at the home and if there are enough security measures to protect residents.

St. Joseph’s Villa wouldn’t tell CityNews if any employees were present at the time of the attack or what was done to defuse the situation, but said staff were shaken by the incident.

“Violence of this sort is extremely rare thanks to the efforts of staff and research-based interventions to prevent agitation in residents with dementia who are in long-term care,” president Derrick Bernardo said in a statement.

“We have reviewed this case to determine if any indicators of potential violence were present and have not found any indication that might have helped us predict this behaviour. We have transferred the aggressive resident to undergo further medical assessment in hospital.”

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said it conducts immediate inspections after the injury or death of a resident.

“In the case of St. Joseph’s Villa, we have had inspectors on site in response to this incident and will take the appropriate action following the results of the investigation,” a spokesperson said in an email.

This isn’t the first time the Ministry has deployed inspectors to St. Joseph’s Villa.

In October 2015, the home was cited for not protecting residents and staff from assaults by a resident, and not using the behavioural modifications. The report shows two written notifications and two voluntary orders to comply were issued.

A written warning was issued to the home on March 8, 2016, for not properly reporting and investigating incidents of alleged abuse.

The Ministry cited the home after staff psychologically abused residents, issuing a written notification and voluntary order.

The Ministry did not respond to questions about the citations or when it intervenes. St. Joseph’s Villa didn’t reply to questions about previous inspections.

A few years ago, the province introduced a program to address resident-to-resident violence at long-term care facilities.
The Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) program provides homes with training by health professionals who in turn develop programs to address the cognitive needs of seniors with challenging or complex mental conditions, including dementia.

The Ministry said the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) — which encompasses St. Joseph’s — received over $6 million in funding for behavioural supports since 2011, and an additional $4 million has been allocated to the BSO Mobile Team for Long Term Care.

The family has asked the Ministry to review the policies and protocols at long-term facilities.

“We need to come together and demand a new strategy, and demand that there’s a standard of care across the board,” Carbino said.

Acker is getting treatment at Hamilton General Hospital — the bruising has gone down, but he’s still visibly shaken up. The family wants to know what measures St. Joseph’s is taking to ensure residents are safe, but is considering moving Acker to another home.