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Crown wants jail for B.C. caregiver who neglected disabled woman

The disabled senior was 72 pounds when admitted to hospital
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Dawn Brush, 55, pleaded guilty last year to one count of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Prosecutors want a Kamloops caregiver jailed 18 months for neglecting a disabled senior in 2019 — a woman emaciated to the point she would have died of malnutrition without intervention, doctors said.

Dawn Brush, 55, pleaded guilty last year to one count of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Brush was a live-in caregiver for a disabled woman requiring 24-hour care. She began caring for the woman in 2006, working through an agency affiliated with Community Living B.C.

Court heard red flags were raised on two fronts in May of 2019. First, Brush’s supervisors paid a visit to the disabled woman’s home to inspect her living conditions. Second, the woman’s doctor reached out to schedule an appointment because he hadn’t seen her in two years.

When the doctor saw the woman, he ordered her admitted to Royal Inland Hospital. She was described in court as being “disturbingly emaciated” and “almost bone.” The woman was 72 pounds when admitted to hospital.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, a doctor said the woman “would have died of malnutrition if no interventions were taken.”

Court heard the disabled woman had matted hair and smelled of urine. She also had a pressure sore on her hip, crust on her eyes and film on her lips.

Brush forged prescription records for the woman. Investigators determined her last prescription had been filled in 2017.

During a sentencing hearing on Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, Crown prosecutor Tim Livingston said the disabled woman is doing well today.

“She is currently thriving,” he said. “It’s heartening to know this is not a sad ending.”

Livingston said it’s important to let the community know caregivers cannot get away with such neglect.

“We as a society trust caregivers — who are contracted through community services agencies, through care homes, et cetera — to do the job that they’re paid to do with these contracts,” he said.

“And society has to be able to trust these people to comply with their obligations for the system. It’s aggravating that Ms. Brush abused a position of authority like this.”

Defence lawyer Cameron Matthee-Johnson said a number of court-ordered pre-sentence assessments left one question still unanswered — why did Brush neglect the woman?

“Something broke in Ms. Brush. We do not know what it was,” he said.

“There’s no suggestion of malice. There’s no suggestion of any reasonable explanation for how this came to be except for some kind of breakage.”

Livingston is seeking an 18-month prison sentence for Brush, while Matthee-Johnson suggested a sentence of house arrest.

Brush, who has no previous criminal record, apologized in court.

“I can’t excuse what happened — I just wish I knew why it happened,” she said. "I’m just deeply, deeply sorry for my actions that caused this."

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan said she hopes to deliver a sentence as early as next week. Lawyers will meet to set a date for sentencing on Monday.

Brush is not in custody.