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‘She’s my whole life’ – Charlottetown senior fights P.E.I. government to bring wife back home

Charlottetown man Jim Munves shows a picture of him and his wife, as well as his late father, on their wedding day in March 1973. Munves is now fighting the province for the right to care for his wife at their Charlottetown home after she was admitted to Atlantic Baptist Home as a permanent resident and the province filed a protective intervention order.
Charlottetown man Jim Munves shows a picture of him and his wife, as well as his late father, on their wedding day in March 1973. Munves is now fighting the province for the right to care for his wife at their Charlottetown home after she was admitted to Atlantic Baptist Home as a permanent resident and the province filed a protective intervention order. - Mitch MacDonald

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Jim Munves, 96, and his wife Barbara, 87, have just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. But it wasn’t the day the Munves had planned.

Barbara is now a resident at Atlantic Baptist Home, having gotten a bed there during her husband’s recent hip surgery. When the couple made plans for Barbara to return to their Sydney Street home, they discovered the province had issued an emergency intervention order that prevents Jim from taking Barbara out – even for an afternoon.

Jim and Barbara Munves enjoy an afternoon together in 2015. For the past month, the couple has only been able to see each other inside the Atlantic Baptist Home.
Jim and Barbara Munves enjoy an afternoon together in 2015. For the past month, the couple has only been able to see each other inside the Atlantic Baptist Home.

“She’s not allowed out of there; she’s a prisoner,” Munves said during an interview with The Guardian. “She’s my whole life, and I wouldn’t want to live without her… We’ve had a lovely life and we deserve to end our days together without this intrusion.”

Jim said he did not want to make his struggle public but felt he had no choice. He also wonders how many other Island seniors are facing similar challenges. He is calling for a review of the province’s Adult Protection Act as well as the appointment of an ombudsman representing elders. 

Jim is able to visit Barbara, who has had dementia since a stroke in 2013, but outings – such as plans to attend a recent P.E.I. Symphony performance for their anniversary – are forbidden.

“She’s miserable about it, she can’t come home, she loves our cat, Lucy, and she can’t see the cat,” said Jim, who visits his wife every day from about noon to 7 p.m.

“We’re both miserable.”

Jim said he has been Barbara’s main caregiver since a 2013 stroke. A few years ago he began hiring a care worker to come in during the day.

However, Jim was preparing for a hip replacement in early January when the province’s home care co-ordinator told him Barbara would be placed in a short-term respite bed at a care facility until Feb. 23.

For Jim, it was a seemingly perfect arrangement since he would be in restorative care until the middle of February.

But circumstances changed.

Jim said he was soon told Barbara’s bed wasn’t available because of a flu outbreak. He said while in the recovery room after his surgery, he granted limited power of attorney to a family member to admit Barbara into a respite bed at Atlantic Baptist Home.

While he wrote a cheque to pay for the accommodations, Jim said he had no direct knowledge of the terms of admission.

Weeks later, once Jim was ready to leave restorative care, he was surprised when a social worker suggested he go live in Atlantic Baptist Home. He told the worker his plans were to instead go get Barbara and take her back to their home.

“They said, ‘she’s not allowed out’,” said Jim. “I got very angry because I figured we’d resume our normal life… I said ‘I’ve been deceived, people have been lying to me because I was told she could get out’.”

The emergency intervention order was then filed by the province on Feb. 21, which was soon followed by a notice of application on Feb. 26 for a 12-month protective intervention order.

The order, signed by Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell, states there was “reasonable grounds to believe there is considerable risk of immediate serious harm.”

The notice of application also states Barbara’s proposed plan of care is to remain at the Atlantic Baptist Home permanently as the least intrusive option for intervention.

“I find this unacceptable, especially for an elderly person of 95-plus years of age trying to find out as much information about his wife under these circumstances ... Jim wants Barbara returned home, he feels that he has a suitable care plan in place for her to be returned and he firmly believes that Barbara wants to be returned as well.”
-Gary Scales

Jim says he has followed the province’s recommendations by hiring a live-in caretaker, moving the couple’s bedroom down a floor and upgrading his security system.

It’s brought him no closer to being with his wife.

Jim and Barbara Munves on their wedding day.
Jim and Barbara Munves on their wedding day.

“Everything they asked, I did,” said Jim.

An emailed statement from Jim’s lawyer, Gary Scales of McInnes Cooper, said the ordeal has shown a lack of disclosure, communication and consultation afforded to Jim as Barbara’s husband and primary caregiver

Scales said neither the emergency intervention nor notice of application were served personally on Jim.

“It’s my position that Jim is entitled to all information relating to Barbara, not only because he’s Barbara’s husband of over 45 years, but he’s also been looking after her at home and providing her with care and guidance necessary to help her with her activities of daily living,” Scales said, noting this places Jim within the definition of someone with “supervisory responsibility” under the Adult Protection Act.

Scales said lawyers for adult protection have maintained they are not required to serve Jim documents relating to the intervention.

“I find this unacceptable, especially for an elderly person of 95-plus years of age trying to find out as much information about his wife under these circumstances,” said Scales, noting that the ordeal and lack of communication have had a severe impact on Jim’s own health through stress and a lack of sleep.

“Jim wants Barbara returned home, he feels that he has a suitable care plan in place for her to be returned and he firmly believes that Barbara wants to be returned as well.”

Related: Province of P.E.I. acts in interest of vulnerable adults

Health P.E.I. would not speak to The Guardian about the specifics of this case but said in a written statement that “care plans and interventions are given careful attention based on the best interest and needs of the vulnerable adult. It is important that all safety issue(s) are addressed before someone can safely return home.”

The hearing for the application is scheduled for April 11.

For the 96-year-old Second World War veteran, it’s three weeks longer than he’s willing to wait.

“I can’t take it anymore… to be this old and have this sort of thing happen is disgusting,” he said.

“There are other things in life besides being safe, like having the sense you’re running your own life and having a sense of agency. They’re depriving me and Barbara of having the right to live the way we want to live.”

Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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