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Former White Rock assisted living resident in hospital after 3 moves in 8 years

‘This whole manoeuvre over to a whole new environment has been absolutely detrimental’
Buena Vista Lodge, pictured, was an assisted living home in White Rock for people with serious and persistent mental health concerns. The home officially closed in January, with some residents moving to a new Fraser Health-funded home in Cloverdale, while others live in other locations now. (Sobia Moman file photo)

David Miller was supposed to be enjoying support and care in his new assisted living home. Instead, he now finds himself admitted to hospital after being arrested.

The events that have transpired for the 64-year-old former White Rock resident have left his brother, Nicholas, frustrated and searching for answers.

“This whole manoeuvre over to a whole new environment has been absolutely detrimental,” David’s younger brother, Nicholas, told Peace Arch News.

“Where he’s at (mentally), I was thinking maybe six months in, but he’s done it in record time.”

David recently moved to a home in Cloverdale after his previous home in White Rock closed and all residents had to move to different locations.

While his family was happy that their loved one would even have a bed in an assisted living facility, the feeling was fleeting.

According to what Nicholas was told by care staff, David was not taking his medication. Because of that, distrust and paranoia overcame David, who began to sleep on the floor of his bedroom to prevent anyone from entering.

On Thursday, April 11, David was taken to Peace Arch Hospital from the Cloverdale home by police, Nicholas said. The 64-year-old remains in hospital still.

David does not become violent physically, the brother added, but he may be aggressive with his words at times when off his medication.

Surrey RCMP said they could not comment on the incident due to privacy reasons.

‘It was a small world he lived in’

While distressing for everyone involved, Nicholas says he “knew this would happen.”

He has been worried about his brother since the day in January when David had all of his belongings packed, said a final goodbye to his housemates and staff, and left through the doors of Buena Vista Lodge for the final time.

A home for a dozen people with serious and persistent mental health concerns, Buena Vista Lodge was operating in White Rock for more than 50 years but has ceased its operations. The most recent owners had plans to sell the home to a new set of operators in October 2022, but Fraser Health, which funded the 12 beds, had other plans.

The health authority informed Buena Vista’s owners that funding would not continue with a new set of operators, instead deciding to invest funding into a new eight-bedroom home in Cloverdale.

RELATED: White Rock mental-health facility residents ‘devastated’ as closing date creeps closer

RELATED: Worry, uncertainty looms as closing date nears for White Rock mental health housing facility

For David, one of the five residents from Buena Vista in Cloverdale since Jan. 26, the move was just another one added to the long list.

In 2018, the 64-year-old man had to leave a different assisted living home on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, Good Shepherd Lodge, which he moved to from Hazelmere Lodge, another area home that is now also closed.

Being in the Semiahmoo Peninsula is all David has known for the last three decades.

“He loved living there. He had the coffee shop, the mall, it was a small world he lived in, but they’re taking that away now too,” Nicholas said.

“Routine, routine, routine” is what David needs, the brother added, but what he has been missing.

David Miller was living at Good Shepherd Lodge before coming to Buena Vista Lodge after the other facility closed in 2018. Now, with Buena Vista also closed, Miller is living in a new home in Cloverdale, but is struggling immensely with the transition. (File photo)

Home moves can hurt mental health: expert

A mental health researcher from Simon Fraser University says David’s experience is similar to ones she’s seen before.

Institutions are typically not spaces most people would choose for themselves, said Marina Morrow from SFU’s faculty of health sciences.

“If you are going to be in an institution, it is important that it’s as home-like as possible and that you are able to develop trusting and caring relationships with the caregivers, and I would agree that you have some control over your schedule and routine,” Morrow said.

The instructor was also part of the research for Riverview Hospital when the mental health institution in Coquitlam closed in 2012, with her work focused on patients being transferred to other locations.

“It can be incredibly distressful; it can increase people’s mental health symptoms, worrying about where they’re going to be. Their families live close to the facility, so they have good access to family members, and they may not at the new facility they’re in,” Morrow explained.

“All of these could have a serious impact on the person’s mental health. It’s not just anecdotal. When moving older folks, the adjustment can be very, very difficult and can also have health consequences.”

This instance was not only seen with David. The family of another Buena Vista resident, Magdalena Coombs, previously spoke to PAN about their experience after their loved one was also admitted to hospital in April 2023. Describing Coombs’ condition, her daughter Bridget said her mother, who is in her 80s, had increased symptoms of anxiety, likely due to the move and not knowing where she would be moving to next, at the time.

RELATED: Buena Vista Lodge residents in limbo awaiting opening of Cloverdale home

The difficulty in uprooting residents is then exacerbated by B.C.’s mental health-care system, which Morrow called “unbalanced” and “crisis-driven,” where choice is limited.

Public funding goes into emergency and acute care, while less money is invested in community supports, including housing, she explained.

‘There has to be a different way’

For David to now be receiving medical treatment that has led him to being on his medication again is good news, Nicholas said: “The sad part, however, is that this happened in the first place.”

Nicholas was told that David has been removed as a patient from White Rock Mental Health and is being transitioned over to Surrey. This was frustrating, as Nicholas said he was “promised” that David would remain under the White Rock authority and now feels lied to.

“The care team that had been supporting these individuals when they resided at Buena Vista is working collaboratively with the care team at the new facility in Cloverdale to ensure a smooth transition for all residents as they settle in to their new home,” an emailed response from Fraser Health states.

“All residents will continue to receive the care and supports they need to ensure their health and well-being.”

Fraser Health’s statement adds that they have met with David and his family and are continuing to engage with them to hear the concerns and “answer any questions they have.”

For Nicholas, this is not good enough as what has been seen so far by him is saddening to the younger sibling.

“This move from White Rock to Cloverdale has devastated David. He has nothing to do and the daily routines (he was used to) are gone,” Nicholas said, adding that David is reeling from the loss of his life before the move.

“David will regress in two to three months… I feel like he won’t be well. This isn’t working, there has to be a different way of doing this.”

For David to be in a place mentally where he once was seems like a distant, maybe unachievable, possibility to the family.

Will this be David’s final move? Nicholas is not holding his breath.

The younger brother worries that David will be evicted from the Cloverdale facility if his health does not improve.

“In cases like my brother’s, they have failed miserably,” Nicholas said, with frustration, anger and defeat heard in his tone.

“David never talks about ending his life, but there’s this way he shows that he (feels like he) doesn’t have a life so he feels useless.

“You can’t do this to people.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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