The number of people across Canada who suffer from Alzheimer's is rising sharply and there must be a corresponding increase in special areas for residents who may lash out, provincial court Judge Michel Chartier says in an inquest report released Friday.
"There are more than 500,000 people living in Canada with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2030, there will be more than 1.1 million people in Canada affected by this disease and the number of persons in long-term care in our country will have increased tenfold," Chartier wrote in his 41-page report.
The judge led an inquest into the March 2011 death of Frank Alexander, 87, at the Parkview Place care home in Winnipeg. Alexander was assaulted by another resident, Joe McLeod, who had Alzheimer's and had been in the Winnipeg Remand Centre after attacking his wife at their home a year earlier.
The inquest was told McLeod's mental capacity had deteriorated to the point where he sometimes didn't recognize his wife and attacked her because he believed she was a stranger. He spent four weeks in the remand centre before space was found in a personal care home.
McLeod continued to behave violently toward staff and other residents at Parkview Place. It culminated in the fatal assault on Alexander, who died after falling backwards and hitting his head on the floor. McLeod himself died earlier this year.
The report cites a shortage of beds for high-risk personal care home residents — one that will only grow as the population ages.
"Evidence is clear that the queue for these behavioural units can be as much as one year in length. This is not acceptable," Chartier wrote.
The report made a number of recommendations, including:
— Every personal care home in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's area have a special, secure unit to handle violent patients.
— The number of available beds should be increased so that the waiting period does not exceed 60 days.
— Increased staff training and new safety protocols at personal care homes to ensure that violent patients are fully monitored and prevented from harming others.
Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady said the government will implement the report's recommendations.
"No family should have to go through what these families did. I apologize to Mr. Alexander's family and to the family of Mr. Joe McLeod," she said in a written statement.