Stress of job, car­ing for dis­abled sis­ter left woman ‘shat­tered’

Edmonton Journal - - CITY -

SHER­WOOD PARK Denise Scriven told a fa­tal­ity in­quiry into the death of her dis­abled sis­ter, Betty Anne Gagnon, that she had a “sense of dread” when she was asked to as­sume Gagnon’s care in 2005.

None­the­less, Scriven, a reg­is­tered nurse, said Wed­nes­day that she and her part­ner, Michael Scriven, took on the re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause “she’s fam­ily.”

Gagnon, who was devel­op­men­tally de­layed and ex­tremely vis­ually im­paired, died four years later from a se­vere brain in­jury at the age of 48. She was also ter­ri­bly mal­nour­ished.

A pub­lic in­quiry fi­nally began in Sher­wood Park this week, eight years af­ter Gagnon’s death.

Scriven and her hus­band pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to fail­ing to pro­vide the nec­es­saries of life in 2013, and were each sen­tenced to 20 months in cus­tody.

Denise Scriven tes­ti­fied her sis­ter, who stood 5-foot-2, was obese when she came to live with her. When she died, she weighed just 65 pounds.

At first, Scriven tes­ti­fied, the fam­ily func­tioned well. But, Scriven said, Gagnon’s be­hav­iour be­came more dif­fi­cult. She began com­pul­sively cov­er­ing her hands and ob­jects in the house with fe­ces.

Mean­while, Scriven tes­ti­fied, she ex­pe­ri­enced a men­tal break­down, due to the stress of work­ing as an emer­gency room nurse.

“I was bro­ken — emo­tion­ally, men­tally bro­ken,” Scriven tes­ti­fied. “Bro­ken is a shal­low way to see it. I was shat­tered. And all I could do was cry and cry.”

She at­tempted sui­cide sev­eral times and began us­ing crack co­caine. She told the court her hus­band was sui­ci­dal. He tes­ti­fied he also turned to drugs.

Denise Scriven said she asked for help from her fam­ily doc­tor and from the province’s Per­sons with De­vel­op­men­tal Dis­abil­i­ties board, but no help was made avail­able.

Denise Har­wardt, the lawyer rep­re­sent­ing PDD, dis­puted that tes­ti­mony, say­ing staff tried re­peat­edly to find al­ter­nate place­ments for Gagnon, but that Scriven didn’t re­turn calls or mes­sages.

Her fam­ily doc­tor, Scriven said, told her Gagnon could be ac­com­mo­dated at Al­berta Hos­pi­tal Ed­mon­ton, but sug­gested she only had 30 days to break Gagnon of her com­pul­sive fe­ces-spread­ing habit.

They de­cided to shame Gagnon into stop­ping. They locked her in a dog run and made her sleep in a home­made “pen.”

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