Jim and Barbara Munves will attend a P.E.I. Symphony performance together this weekend after a Supreme Court judge granted permission for the outing.
And it appears the couple’s reunion could soon become permanent.
“I’m looking forward to it. Barbara loves (the symphony) and it will be the first time she’s (been) out… she’s been in (Atlantic Baptist Home) for three months since January,” Jim said after leaving a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday. “(I’m) exhausted.”
Jim, 96, has reached an agreement with the province for his wife Barbara, 87, to return home from the Atlantic Baptist Home, although some of the specifics still must be ruled on.
Jim said he has been fighting the province since late February for the right to care for his wife, Barbara, who has suffered from dementia since a stroke in 2013, at their Charlottetown home after she was admitted to Atlantic Baptist Home as a permanent resident.
After leaving restorative care following a hip replacement, Jim discovered the province had issued an emergency intervention order that prevented him from taking his wife home, as well as a notice of application for a 12-month protective intervention order.
The two sides have now largely come to an agreement, which includes Jim hiring a live-in care worker, installing alarms and making other improvements to the couple’s home. The house will also be inspected by an adult protection worker.
A court hearing on Wednesday dealt with two other outstanding issues in the matter: whether social workers will make unannounced visits to the couple’s home and whether the care worker will now have to be with the couple when they attend events outside their home.
Alanna Taylor, representing the Department of Health and Wellness, said it was important to have both implemented. At the hearing, she read through a number of incidents stretching back to October 2015, which largely involved Jim falling down or not taking advice from case workers as well as two incidents where Barbara left the home and got lost.
“We have no doubt it has been very hard on Jim. However, our primary focus has been and continues to be Barbara’s best interests and her safety,” said Taylor, who noted that Barbara is more physically able than Jim.
“I want to be very clear that we, Adult Protection, do not take emergency interventions lightly… We had reasonable grounds to believe Barbara was at risk of immediate, serious harm and that Barbara was in need of protection.”
Jim’s legal counsel, Gary Scales, said the two orders were “extremely intrusive.”
He also raised concerns of lack of information and disclosure provided to Jim, who had supervisory responsibility of Barbara.
Jim has also shared concerns over how other seniors could be affected.
“Supervisory responsibility triggers a right to communication and information under the (Adult Protection) Act,” said Scales. “I made numerous requests that Mr. Munves be served with documents in relation to the intervention and investigations or anything related to the intervention…. (Taylor) at the time denied they had a responsibility to do that, which is why this is an important issue.”
While Taylor said she did not serve Jim with a copy of the notice of application when it was filed Feb. 26, which she said was an oversight, his counsel received the documents on March 2.
She said once Jim’s counsel received the documents there was no need to provide them to him personally.
She said Jim, the person with supervisory responsibility of Barbara, also refused to consent with what was being asked by adult protection workers.
“I would suggest this was the case when Mr. Munves spoke with Crystal (MacEachern, an adult protection worker) on Feb. 21,” said Taylor, referencing the day Jim checked himself out of rehab, found out Barbara was to remain in the Atlantic Baptist Home and refused a bed there for himself.
“I would certainly suggest had Jim, at that point in time, been willing to work with Crystal we may not have had to get an emergency intervention.”
Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Matheson will deliver a decision on the two issues next Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
A group of about a dozen supporters waited outside the courtroom and cheered and congratulated Jim upon hearing an agreement had been reached, although showed some disappointment the final verdict would not be reached until next week.
Many in the group had been long-time friends of the couple and expressed concern over the situation.
Ernest Mutch, 85, of Hazelbrook said he felt reviewing the Adult Protection Act is an important issue for Island seniors.
“It won’t be long before perhaps I will have to fight the same struggle if we don’t win this battle against locking people up when they get anything wrong with them.”
Rev. Phil Callaghan, who was allowed to sit in on the hearing as Jim’s support, said prior to the hearing that he felt what was done to the couple was an injustice.
He also shared concerns about the act.
“I think if anybody talks to Jim, they would know very quickly that he’s a very competent man and just a warm human being with an incredible heart,” said Callaghan. “If this has been done to him, it can be done to others as well.”