Loneliness drives 77-year-old to four stabbingsA lonely and isolated 77-year-old man stabbed four other elderly housemates at a nursing home in Ulju County, Ulsan, last week and died after he jumped out of a window.
According to Ulju police, the man, identified by the surname Oh, stabbed his roommate with a knife around midnight on Friday. He then entered two other rooms and stabbed three elderly people.
A staffer at the nursing home discovered the injured people and called the police.
Oh jumped from a window on the second floor of the facility and was sent to a nearby hospital, but died on the way.
According to police, the four injured housemates were treated at hospitals. One was released later that day, while three still remained hospitalized as of Tuesday.
The facility is located on the outskirts of Ulju, surrounded by mountains. A resident of the neighborhood said it is a lonely place. “There were no visitors to the facility, and there aren’t many buildings around the area,” the 69-year-old resident said.
According to the home, Oh had symptoms of dementia, high blood pressure and hearing impairment when he first came to the facility, but did not show any signs of violence up to the incident. The facility said he usually spent time by himself.
Oh started having quarrels with other housemates over the smell of the ointment that he applied on his knees and misunderstandings caused by his hearing impairment. Small incidents like those led him to grow distant from others, according to staffers at the facility.
Oh voluntarily admitted himself in 2006. “I don’t have any contact with my family,” Oh was quoted as saying by a facility’s manager from a counseling session.
Police found that Oh never had a single visitor for 13 years in the facility. His daughter accompanied him when he was originally admitted.
“A day before the incident, I heard there was a quarrel at breakfast,” the director of the facility told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.
“When I asked Oh what happened, he said that he was sorry and bowed his head several times, so I didn’t think much of it.”
“He usually never causes any major problems, so I never expected something like this would happen,” the director said.
The police said depression was suspected as the main reason for his crime. Police said it is unsure whether Oh had any intention of killing the four victims.
“We suspect that he brought the weapon from outside before the incident,” a police officer said. “Seeing that the weapon was dull and there was no threat to the victim’s lives, even though they were attacked in their sleep, we believe that he had no intention to kill.”
According to the police, the knife was about 24 centimeters (9.4 inches) long. Before entering the facility, Oh was a carpenter.
Experts say facilities such as senior homes, one of three types of nursing homes in Korea, focus on physical care services and are less equipped to treat mental or psychological conditions such as depression and dementia.
“The physical health of patients in the assistant living facilities may be better off than those in nursing hospitals or sanitariums, but mental problems can occur when they are away from their family for long periods or when there is discord among people in the facility,” said Yoon Hyun-sook, a professor of social welfare at Hallym University.
“Most senior homes are focused on physical treatment, neglecting a patient’s state of mind,” said Joo Eun-sun, a professor of social welfare at Kyonggi University. “A system should be established for this problem before negative emotions lead to extreme actions.”
BY JUNG MYUNG-SUK, WI SUNG-WOOK and KIM JUNG-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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