The family of a man violently beaten while asleep in his nursing home bed is furious with St. Joseph's Villa.
They also want to know why such assaults can't be prevented in long-term-care homes.
James Acker, 85, was taken by ambulance to the General Hospital on Saturday after a male resident with Alzheimer's went into his room at the Dundas nursing home around 2 a.m. and attacked him.
St. Joseph's Villa acknowledged the incident and say it's investigating.
"Our priority is to ensure the safety and security of our residents," said president Derrick Bernardo.
The Governors Road facility is owned by St. Joseph's Health System.
Acker suffered head trauma and has bleeding on the brain, his family noted. He also ended up with black eyes, a fat lip, and a swollen, wounded and bloody face.
Daughter Tammy Carbino says he has since deteriorated rapidly — from a reasonably high-functioning, calm and quiet senior with dementia who could feed and toilet himself — to one who is anxious, paranoid and babbling.
"He was attacked in his sleep. His pillow and sheets are full of blood," Carbino said.
Neither Carbino nor her mother, Diane Acker, want the attacker to be criminally charged. What they want is for St. Joseph's Villa — and all nursing homes — to be made safer for residents.
"We want the story out there," said Carbino. "We all have the right to be safe."
Bernardo said he's aware there's a problem.
"We know incidents of this nature are prevalent in long-term-care homes."
The province is working on improvements, he said, but added the attack on Acker was unusual.
"An attack of this nature where a resident has sustained major injuries is not typical of our organization."
Staff were surprised by the assault, describing it as "unexpected behaviour" by the attacker, Bernardo said.
The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care is investigating the attack, said spokesperson David Jensen in an email.
"The ministry intends to strengthen its … safety inspection program with new enforcement tools — including proposed financial penalties" to ensure concerns are addressed promptly.
The family says they put Acker in the nursing home last March when his wife couldn't care for him at their Waterdown home anymore. They placed him in a private room, costing $2,600 per month.
"We were so tormented doing this in the first place. It was an awful decision for us. There's so much guilt," Carbino said.
Mother and daughter allege that Acker was also sexually assaulted last September by a female resident who wandered into his room.
The Villa said it cannot confirm this or provide any information for privacy reasons.
Police were called by the Villa in both cases, says Carbino, but they told her there would be no charges because the perpetrators "were not in their right mind."
Wanda Morris, with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), says such attacks are not a rarity.
"Something needs to be done. It's a significant and heinous problem."
Morris says CARP hasn't been able to find specific statistics and believes such incidents are under-reported.
The Villa has met with the family.
Carbino said far from feeling reassured, however, she now feels worse after hearing more details at the meeting that two personal support workers saw the beating but could not stop it — although Bernardo says they eventually managed to distract the attacker.
Carbino says safety in nursing homes should concern everybody.
"If this was happening to children, people wouldn't stand for it."