More assaults at Copper Ridge leave families fearful

Marge MacLeod wasn't told her ex-husband had been assaulted at Copper Ridge Place late last month. It was her daughter who received a call from Copper Ridge staff.

Marge MacLeod wasn’t told her ex-husband had been assaulted at Copper Ridge Place late last month.

It was her daughter who received a call from Copper Ridge staff. Her daughter then called MacLeod to say, “Dad had been punched, but he was OK.”

Visiting the next day, MacLeod saw the extent of Don’s injuries.

“He had this huge black eye with a bloody cut underneath it,” she said.

Don, in an Alzheimer’s haze, had wandered into the room of another male patient in his ward. And the man attacked him.

Don is such a sweet, gentle man, said MacLeod. “All the nurses call him Grampa, and to see him like this ….”

Despite the divorce – carried out for business reasons when her husband’s Alzheimer’s became debilitating – MacLeod still visits her ex three times a week, often helping him eat his meals.

MacLeod asked staff why she hadn’t been called after the attack. She’s received no adequate response.

MacLeod is fond of the Copper Ridge staff and didn’t make a big fuss about the incident, “because I didn’t want to get the nurses in trouble,” she said.

But after reading about other recent assaults at Copper Ridge, she got worried.

In July, a 54-year-old woman with Down syndrome was sexually molested by another male resident.

The man rolled his wheelchair over to the woman, threw a blanket over her lap and shoved his hand down her underwear.

The assault was witnessed by staff, but police weren’t notified for eight days.

The woman’s family was on holiday and weren’t told about the assault until they returned.

It was like being blindsided, said the woman’s sister Liesel Briggs, who later learned the man had been involved in another incident in 2005 at Copper Ridge that raised “red flags with staff.”

After the assault the man was moved out of her sister’s unit, but was still roaming the hallways.

So Briggs wrote a letter asking for better security measures. Then the man was moved to Whitehorse General Hospital.

However, Briggs only learned this after she spotted him hanging out in the hospital’s lobby.

And there’s no guarantee he won’t be moved back to Copper Ridge, said Health spokesperson Pat Living in a recent interview with the News.

At the beginning of September, Briggs sent a letter to Copper Ridge extended care director Willy Shippey asking what precautions the facility was considering to prevent future assaults.

She is still waiting for an answer.

Another female Copper Ridge resident with dementia, who can’t speak, was the victim of sexual interference in July, according to a November 6 report on CBC Radio One.

Two months later, the woman’s daughter received a call that her mother had been physically assaulted a second time, by a different resident, according to the report.

After learning Don was not the only recent assault victim at the facility, MacLeod got worried.

Staff at Copper Ridge wouldn’t even tell MacLeod who assaulted her ex-husband.

MacLeod is worried the facility is short-staffed, but she can’t get any answers.

“To this day, not one of (the staff) has phoned me,” she said.

Briggs is having the same problem.

“They’re not letting any information out,” she said.

Each incident should be discussed, said Health Minister Doug Graham.

“We have a continuing-care policy that involves full disclosure of incidents of any kind.”

The Yukon doesn’t have continuing-care legislation.

But that doesn’t matter, said Graham.

“Legislation isn’t going to help.

“We have policies in place and great staff, which is the best way to ensure good quality care.”

The staffing ratio at Copper Ridge is equal to or higher than national standards, added Graham.

“We are looking at every incident and taking it all very seriously.

“But unless we have a one-to-one ratio with a staff member for every person in care, some things are going to happen.”

Worried that more things will happen, Briggs and MacLeod have organized a meeting this Friday at noon at the Yukon Association for Community Living space in the Yukon Inn Plaza to discuss the assaults, other concerns and a plan of action.

All are welcome.

Contact Genesee Keevil at