Public silence after nursing home death disturbs victim’s friend

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published before police shared information of the arrest of the man accused of aggravated assault which ultimately resulted in Jim Still’s untimely death.

Jim Still died last August, police remain mum on cause

LITTLE CURRENT––It’s been almost a year since the tragic passing of Korean War veteran Jim Still at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home and his long-time partner and best friend, Ellen Cooper, wants to know why she hasn’t had an answer from the police as to just what happened and reached out to The Expositor with her concerns.

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Mr. Still was transported by ambulance to the Manitoulin Health Centre in Little Current. He was in a coma from which he never woke. Five days later, Mr. Still died as an apparent result of the injuries he had sustained that fateful night of August 25, 2017.

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Because of the manner in which he died, and at a public institution, Mr. Still’s body was sent for an autopsy in Sudbury. Ms. Cooper has never learned the results, nor are the Wikwemikong Tribal Police saying anything.

Ms. Cooper explained to The Expositor that at the time when Mr. Still entered the nursing home, at age 85, she herself was very ill, needing to travel to Toronto to see specialists and having to be on oxygen. Mr. Still was also exhibiting symptoms of dementia. It was decided that moving to the Wikwemikong Nursing Home, his first choice for long-term care, was in everyone’s best interests.

Mr. Still was happy in Wikwemikong, and Ms. Cooper was happy too. She speaks of how his face would light up every time she came to visit him, the love that was so obvious, and that the care he received there was excellent.

On Friday, August 25, 2017 at 12:30 am, Ms. Cooper said she was awakened by a phone call from the nursing home. She was told that Jim had an accident—that he had fallen out of bed and that his roommate had tried to help him. “’I’ll be right there’,” she recalled saying to the woman on the other end of the line. Ms. Cooper was told that no, the nursing home was sending Mr. Still to the hospital in Little Current. When Ms. Cooper said she would meet him there, the woman told her that it was probably best if she waited a few hours. She knew then that something was terribly wrong.

“When I walked in (and saw him) I almost had a heart attack,” Ms. Cooper said, referencing the extent of her friend’s injuries. “When I saw him, I knew it wasn’t an accident.” She immediately called her daughter, a registered nurse, and Mr. Still’s children to his bedside. Following his death on August 30, and his subsequent autopsy on September 5, Ms. Cooper has never heard a word on what happened to her beloved friend.

“Why are we still waiting?” she asked.

Ms. Cooper said she has shown up at the Wikwemikong Tribal Police on three separate occasions, requesting answers, but has never spoken to an officer. This newspaper, too, has tried repeatedly to get an update on the case, but is always told “it’s still under investigation” by police. The coroner is not able to give results to the media.

Unofficially, The Expositor has heard that Mr. Still was severely beaten by his nursing home roommate, a story Ms. Cooper has heard as well. Ms. Cooper wonders, if he was beaten by his roommate, why someone who was violent was placed with Mr. Still (or with any other person) to share a room.

“Why is the autopsy taking so long?” Ms. Cooper asked. “It’s a case of someone beating someone. Let’s get this over with.”

She reiterated that Mr. Still was very happy at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home and while she was at first angry with the facility, she has since come to realize that this could have happened anywhere, but she’s not happy with the way she was told, or the fact that she has never heard from anyone at the nursing home since or from the local police force.

“The care he received was great—they were very friendly and good,” Ms. Cooper added. “The sad thing was the lying. I’m hurt because wouldn’t you think I could have got a letter or something, anything?”

“People have been so kind to ask about Jim, and I have to keep saying, ‘I have no idea’.”

Nursing home deaths by violent means are rare, but when they occur (there was one at Sudbury’s Extendicare York several years ago) the facts of the incident are always shared with the public as soon as possible by local authorities.