‘He went for me’: N.W.T. senior says he was repeatedly rammed by a wheelchair, and staff did nothing

An elder living in the Hay River seniors home says he was repeatedly assaulted by another resident who has dementia — and staff did nothing to help him.

Norman Lafferty and Rosa

Norman Lafferty with his wife Rosa at their wedding. (submitted by Sharon Lafferty)

Norman Lafferty, 84, has had his two lower legs amputated. He said the other resident of Woodland Manor, who is in an electric wheelchair, deliberately rammed him three times earlier this month.

Lafferty said he needed medical treatment after one of the attacks.

“He went for me, but he hit the doorjamb and hit me in my stump. He came at me a second time and knocked me right out of my chair.”

Lafferty said he told staff about each attack, and even though he tried to avoid the other resident, the attacks continued. He says they culminated in a confrontation on Sept. 9 in the gazebo outside the manor.

“He pointed at me, he laughed. He grabbed his joystick, shot over and hit the door jamb on the left. He wasn’t strapped in. He got up. He had injured himself.”

Lafferty says the next morning, a worker at the manor accused him of attacking the other resident with a hammer. He was moved out of the home and sent to hospital for a psychiatric assessment. The police were called and it’s not clear if Lafferty was charged.

Though Lafferty signed a waiver authorizing health department staff to talk about the incidents, officials refused to do so. They said it wasn’t a standard health department waiver and, because the incident involved another person, a waiver would be required from him as well.

Required staff training

“Our staff are trained in techniques to manage responsive behaviours,” said Kim Riles, assistant deputy minister of health programs. “Responsive behaviours” is a term used for aggressiveness and violence caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Barb Hood

‘The residents are there for care, and so they are vulnerable,’ says Barb Hood of the N.W.T. seniors society. (Richard Gleeson/CBC)

That training is included in a two-day course on an approach to seniors care called Supportive Pathways. That training has only been required since the beginning of last year, when the department standardized training requirements for everyone providing care for seniors in the N.W.T.

Barb Hood of the N.W.T. seniors society says the ideal situation in any seniors home is to have a separate area for residents with dementia.

“The residents are there for care, and so they are vulnerable, and often not able to defend themselves,” said Hood. “If a situation arises where there’s aggression, often the most frail will be the target. If the resident is hit, they could fall and break a hip, an arm, a shoulder, and those kinds of things can cause a lot of health issues and, in fact, can cause death.”

Elderly seniors hands

Aven Manor in Yellowknife is the only seniors residence in the territory where residents with dementia are separated from others. (Shutterstock)

Several residents of seniors homes in the provinces have died as a result of injuries due to violence at the hands of fellow residents who have dementia.

The health department says Aven Manor in Yellowknife is the only seniors residence in the territory where residents with dementia are separated from others.

Lafferty’s daughter, Sharon, has filed complaints with the department about the treatment her father received.

“Everything that happened should never have happened,” she said. “He was bullied. I think they’re understaffed. If they have that many dementia patients there, there should be more staff.”