James Acker died on Sunday in a Hamilton hospital — a hospital he hadn’t left since he was brutally beaten in his long term care home bed last January.
“They are doing an autopsy to confirm that it is related to an attack,” his daughter Tammy Carbino tells CityNews in her Toronto home.
“My father was murdered and no-one is held accountable and it is disgusting,” she adds.
Acker was a resident of St. Joseph’s Villa in Dundas. He was suffering from dementia, but was trying to stay upbeat. Just two days before the attack, he attended a dance with his wife. “He was happy,” Carbino says.
The attack happened last January in the early morning hours, when another resident suffering from dementia began to wander the halls.
“He went into my father’s room and just starting beating him. The nurse said he was pounding and pounding and pounding on his face,” Carbino says, recounting what she was told by staff at the home.
A personal support worker (PSW) followed the resident into Acker’s room, but was unable to stop the assault.
They yelled for help, instead of issuing a “code white,” which would have called all staff to the room through a P.A. system.
The home was cited for not following this protocol in subsequent investigations into the incident by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
“No whistles were blown, no alarms went off — and then eventually the resident turned and went after the PSWs,” Carbino recounts.
The inspection report cites the home for “failing to ensure that residents were protected from abuse by anyone,” and notes that the resident who attacked Acker had demonstrated behaviours on at least three occasions over the previous five weeks that required intervention staff were trained to use, and that were available, but that were ignored.
Those interventions may have prevented the violent and tragic incident that ultimately hospitalized Acker for the rest of his life.
“This attack should never have happened. There was several times in 2016 where this resident exhibited patterns and behaviours that needed to be addressed and weren’t,” says a distraught Carbino.
Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly says part of the problem is the system itself.
“Even though the home knew or ought to have known that something could have happened because of the history, they would not get a fine as long as they report it to the ministry,”
She’s been working in the field for two decades and says she can only recall one fine being issued in that time. “We don’t have a system that really addresses the issues when it comes to abuse in long term care homes,” she adds.
Data obtained from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care shows that incidents of abuse and neglect are on the rise.
In 2013, for example, there were 3,179 reported cases in Ontario. By 2014, those numbers had climbed to 3,666 reported cases.
No fines were issued, and only five homes since 2016 have had temporary “cease of admissions” ordered because of significant problems, including Carressant Woodstock — where Elizabeth Wettlaufer is accused of killing several residents.
Meanwhile St. Joseph’s Villa was cited several times over the past couple of years for failing to prevent abuse. An October 2015 inspection report on the home found that it “failed to ensure that procedures and interventions were developed and implemented to assist residents and staff who were at risk of harm or who were harmed as a result of a resident’s behaviours,” a finding very similar to the January 2017 attack on Acker.
“If the home is entirely negligent and doesn’t do anything, they leave it to the civil system and most people don’t go that way. So there’s no consequences other than these reports and being told to fix things,” explains Meadus.
Derreck Bernardo, the president of St. Joseph’s Villa, says he takes those reports very seriously, and since Acker’s attack, has made significant changes at the home.
“The Villa responded to this incident by initiating a number of measures to ensure greater safety for its residents, including: increasing security walkabouts in secured units, further education for staff, installation of security cameras, and increased surveillance monitoring ability,” he writes in a statement.
Even with these changes, Carbino still doesn’t feel like the home is taking accountability for her father’s death. “The system failed him,” she says.