Documents reveal previously unknown deaths at facilities
Newly released coroner’s reports have revealed two previously unreported deaths of Nova Scotia nursing home residents injured when they were pushed down by residents with dementia.
The cases, obtained through a freedom of information request to the medical examiner, bring the number of such deaths since 2008 to 11 in the province.
“Those numbers are concerning,”“said Eilon Caspi, a gerontologist who has researched resident-on-resident nursing home abuse for 25 years in Canada and the United States.
“Would we accept a few deaths a year if we were talking about toddlers in a child care setting?”
The two newly revealed deaths, both since Jan. 1 last year, are the latest examples of such fatalities occurring without the Health Department or police notifying the public.
A third death during that period did become public: the case of 79-year-old Gordon Birchell was reported last year to The Canadian Press by a family friend and later confirmed by the RCMP.
Last year, The Canadian Press published reports of eight deaths since 2008 and found five had never been revealed to the public either by police or the province, and that one case wasn’t investigated by the Health Department until the public revelations.
The latest cases occurred at Harbour View Haven in Lunenburg, while the other was at the Shannex Orchard facility in Kentville, with no police news releases in either case to inform the public that homicide investigations were launched and later dropped.
The heavily edited reports say that in one case, “the decedent was found on the floor by nursing home staff after suffering a fall ... another client was seen pushing decedent causing (name redacted) to fall.”
In another case, the person who died was “pushed by another resident ... fell on the floor striking (name redacted).”
Dr. Matthew Bowes, the chief medical examiner, said in an email he’s reviewed the cases and based on comments from investigators he believes all of the cases are “dementia related,” adding he isn’t authorized to review the medical records of the people who pushed the residents.
Neither home returned calls and emails requesting further information.
Caspi said the continuing flow of pushing deaths shouldn’t be regarded as normal or unavoidable: “This is devastating for family members.”