Elderly dementia patient not handled appropriately says family

Family asks RCMP to review case at hospital in northern Alberta

injuries on elderly dementia patient

A Dene family from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is unhappy with the treatment of their 80-year-old father, who has dementia, in a Fort McMurray hospital that resulted in an injury that required medical attention.

The family complained to Alberta Health Services on Feb. 20, 2024 according to documents obtained by APTN News. The complaint concerned Fredolin Derange, who goes by Fred, an elderly dementia patient who was admitted to the Northern Light Regional Hospital on Feb. 18, 2024.

According to the investigation, Fred was “found in the sub-basement of the hospital where several facilities management rooms are located.”

The letter to the family about the investigation said that “when a Protective Services officer approached Mr. Derange, he was uncommunicative, but noticing a patient wristband the officer made inquiries on his radio as to where he belonged.”

The letter said “Two officers met Mr. Derange in the stairwell and asked him to return to the Medicine Unit. He immediately became belligerent, shouting and stating he would fight them both.”

Derange did start to go upstairs but sat down before he reached the main level.

Darryl Derange, is one of five brothers and has been visiting his father regularly. He told APTN News that he was not contacted about the incident.

“They say that there is some camera footage but they wouldn’t show us,” said Darryl, who has questions about his father’s treatment and was unsatisfied with the AHS investigation.

 ‘They said everything was fine’

Darryl said he checked on his father after work that day and he was watching TV.

“I asked the nurses how he was and they said ‘everything is fine.’ I looked down the hallway and could see him watching TV. I said ‘well ok if he is fine I don’t want to agitate him.’ Like I don’t want him to think I am coming to pick him up,” said Darryl.

Two days later Darryl visited the hospital and noticed torn skin on his father’s arm.

Injury on Fred Derange’s arm from the incident with security. Photo: Supplied by Darryl and Mike Derange.

“I asked him what happened and he said he got in a ‘fight with security’ … I said ‘what the hell’ and I called my brother Mike and we looked at his wounds,” said Darryl.

APTN spoke to both Darryl and Mike about the incident separately. Both brothers said that when they went to speak with security, the manager on staff was not aware of what had happened two days ago.

“None of this was even noted or on paper on any level,” said Darryl. “There was bruising on his arm and they had to treat him for lacerations…and you know that isn’t considered an assault?” Mike told to APTN.

“They basically said that their hospital staff did no wrong,” said Darryl who received the results on an internal AHS investigation on April 10 2024.

Investigation letter

The letter from AHS references a “belligerent and combative” attitude of Fred against the security officers including some alleged racist remarks said by the 80-year-old dementia patient.

“The injuries in this case of unfortunate but could have been avoided had Mr. Derange cooperated with Protective Services,” said the letter. “There was no evidence to support or suggest that any of the officers treated Mr. Derange roughly or mishandled him in any way.”

Photo: Supplied by Mike Derange

Thin blue line flag in security office

In addition to the concerns about the treatment of their father, Mike was concerned about symbol in the security office and worried about what it could mean about the attitudes towards Indigenous people by hospital security staff.

“There was a thin blue line flag up in their office … they turned around and justified it as honouring fallen police officers but when this incident occurred and I was talking to security I brought that up to them,” said Mike.

He told APTN that it made him feel as though his concerns were not taken seriously as a First Nations person.

The contentious thin blue line symbol shows a black and white Canadian flag with a blue line through the middle. It is a symbol that isn’t permitted on RCMP uniforms and there is also a ban in some municipal police forces.

While some consider the image a sign of police solidarity, it has also been criticized as a symbol of white supremacy as it stems from a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement that began in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2021 after the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

Darryl told APTN that the family was not happy with the results of the investigation and have forwarded the matter to the local RCMP.

APTN reached out to AHS to ask about the family’s claim that the security manager was not aware of the incident when they brought it up, and the process for dealing with a dementia patients and whether it was normal procedure to not involve medical staff. APTN also asked about the thin blue line flag the family saw in the security office. We did not receive a response by deadline.

APTN reached out to the Wood Buffalo RCMP but they would not confirm whether they received a complaint about an alleged assault at the Northern Lights Hospital against Fred Derange or whether there was an investigation into the incident.

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