Article on resident violence highlights triggers


Maclean’s story steers clear of laying blame

Friday, January 31, 2014 — Deron Hamel

When a violent act occurs in a long-term care home, too often media outlets will cover the story, explain the incident in great detail but miss the bigger picture. The result is that fingers start pointing at the home and its staff members while the cause of the incident is ignored.

A recent article in Maclean’s magazine, however, takes a much different approach to a violent act in a long-term care home — one that focuses on what caused the incident rather on who to blame.

The article tells the story of Jack Furman, a 95-year-old resident of a Vernon, B.C. long-term care home who allegedly killed his roommate in August. Both men lived in the dementia unit at Paulson Residential Care. Furman, who has since been placed in a psychiatric hospital, was charged with second-degree murder (the charge was later stayed).

But what were the triggers leading to the alleged assault that claimed the life of 85-year-old Bill May? Who is Jack Furman and is there anything that will explain his alleged actions?

This is where the Maclean’s story comes in and tells us of another Jack Furman; a veteran of the First Special Service Force who fought in the Second World War; a man who witnessed — and committed — countless violent acts perpetrated in the name of war.

In 2010, Furman, who was already exhibiting symptoms of dementia, travelled to Italy to revisit the battlefields where he once fought. Interviewed by Historica Canada’s Memory Project, the veteran recounted how he couldn’t stand the sight of an animal being killed for food, let alone seeing a violent act against a person.

“And then you get over (to the battlefields) and you see guys that are seriously wounded, and you wonder how in the hell we could do this to each other,” Furman recounted. “It’s just beyond imagination.”

Furman also graphically discussed the process of quietly killing German sentries with a knife; and how they would leave stickers on the bodies of the dead soldiers that read “Das dicke ende kommt noch!” or “The worst is yet to come!”

We don’t know the details leading up to the alleged assault; they’ve not been released. What we do know is that Jack Furman’s life has been marked by horrors most of us will never experience. From what we know about dementia, the impact of memories stored from long ago can become vivid in the present day.

Jack Furman the man, not the violent act he allegedly committed, is what the Maclean’s article brings to the forefront.

Click here to read the full article.

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