An Abbotsford woman says two rings were stolen from the hand of her dying mother and a third was taken from a locked drawer in her room at a care home in Mission last month.
Marion Harris says the incident has greatly upset her, especially knowing that her mom was in a vulnerable state and was unable to fend off the theft.
Harris’s 94-year-old mother, Marianne Treichel, died on Sunday, Dec. 16. She had been living in the The Residence in Mission (TRIM) – a seniors’ care facility operated by Fraser Health – for two years after suffering a heart attack and pneumonia, which resulted in her needing a wheelchair to get around.
But despite these setbacks, Harris said her mom remained active and enjoyed playing bingo, bowling and attending church every Sunday.
Harris said her mother received exceptional treatment from TRIM staff, who became like family to them.
“All I ever heard her say was, ‘The people here are so good to me,’ ” Harris said.
But she said her trust has been shattered after what occurred in mid-December.
Treichel suffered a large stroke in November, which further debilitated her. She was no longer able to use her hands to feed herself and became increasingly non-verbal.
She wore three rings on her hands. A gold wedding band was on her right hand – as is European tradition – paired with a diamond sapphire cluster.
On her left hand was a gold crown with an amethyst. Harris said this ring has great sentimental value, due to its private personal family history.
“It meant the world to her, so it meant the world to us,” Harris says.
Another ring, a plain diamond cluster, was tucked away in a zippered case in a locked dresser drawer.
Harris said she saw the rings on Treichel’s hands on Tuesday, Dec. 11 but noticed that two of the rings were missing on Saturday, Dec. 15 – the day before her mother’s death – when she was cleaning her mom’s hands with a wash cloth. Only her wedding band remained.
Harris at first thought that perhaps staff had removed the rings and set them aside, but they were nowhere to be found, and no workers had seen them.
She soon discovered that the ring that had been locked in the drawer was also gone, although other jewelry in the zippered case was left behind. (Harris says a key to that drawer might have been left on a nightstand.)
Harris said she, her husband and staff “tore the room apart” looking for the missing jewelry, but the items didn’t turn up.
Harris said that’s when she came to the awful realization that someone had stolen the rings. She said her mom’s hands were far too swollen for them to just have fallen off, and she couldn’t have removed them herself because she had limited use of her hands.
When she asked her mom what had happened to the rings, she could only mutter, “Don’t know.”
Harris notified a nurse of the missing rings and waited to hear back from management. A few days later, she filed a report with Mission RCMP.
At some point, Harris discovered that, in a photo she had taken of her mom on Thursday, Dec. 13, the rings were not on her fingers, narrowing the timeline of the theft to between Dec. 11 and 13.
Harris provided management and police with a timeline and photos, but said she has not heard back from them since December. There are no video cameras in residents’ rooms, so the culprit cannot be tracked down in that manner.
Harris said the most upsetting part of the entire incident is that her mother was violated by someone she likely would have trusted at a time when she was so vulnerable.
She said she is sharing her story to warn others who have loved ones in a care home to remove anything of value.
Tasleem Juma, a spokesperson with Fraser Health, said the agency is conducting an internal investigation into the matter and will share any relevant findings with the RCMP and the family.
“We are deeply troubled someone would take advantage of any resident, particularly at the end of their life when they are most vulnerable,” she said.
She said policies and procedures are in place to protect residents’ and staff’s safety, including security personnel, locked and restricted areas, and closed-circuit cameras where appropriate.
But residential care facilities are open environments where people can come and go, and it’s suggested that valuables not be kept on site, Juma added.
“We must balance the need to provide a secure environment with the need for residents and their friends and family to feel as comfortable as they can within a residential care setting,” she said.
Harris would also like to most get back the amethyst ring – no questions asked – due to its sentimental value. Anyone who finds the ring(s) is asked to contact Vikki Hopes at The Abbotsford News at 604-851-4530, or they can be mailed to her anonymously at The Abbotsford News, 34375 Gladys Ave., Abbotsford, V2S 2H5.