An aged care worker has recounted horrific details of her duties on the frontline in a nursing home, including an occasion where one resident with dementia killed another.
- The Royal Commission into Aged Care is sitting in Sydney
- An aged care worker gave evidence saying assaults on staff were common in the facility she worked in
- She also said there was a culture in the industry of shrugging incidents off
In giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Aged Care in Sydney today, Kathryn Nobes said patient assaults on workers were a daily occurrence.
Her most shocking account was when she and a colleague discovered a resident with blood on his knees
They initially thought he may have fallen or had a nosebleed, but eventually found out he had killed another resident.
“[My colleague] came running up to us and said words to the effect ‘while I was at break, there has been a murder, the resident has murdered another resident’,” Ms Nobes said.
“When walking to the tea room, I walked past a woman who was crying uncontrollably.
“I now know this was the wife of the resident.”
Ms Nobes said the resident had a history of violence towards both staff and residents.
In a prior incident, Ms Nobes was informed that same resident had been found with his hands around the neck of a bed-bound resident.
Ms Nobes also recounted being assaulted with faeces by a male patient while she was helping him go to the toilet.
“I have not noticed any real changes in the workplace, you were just sort of expected to deal with it.
“When I informed my in-charge that I had been assaulted by a resident, the in-charge shrugged their shoulders and said ‘that’s dementia’.
“This has happened on different occasions.
“I think there is an overriding culture in aged care of simply shrugging it off … sometimes this meant I had to look after 18 men by myself. I didn’t feel safe.”
She said staff who cared for people with dementia needed more specialised training.
“It is very helpful to understand that this is the disease of the brain, that there can be over 100 diseases that may cause neurological dysfunction,” Ms Nobes said.
“This will lead to a more tolerant attitude to know that this is not a choice but a behaviour caused by this disease.
“I think we also need more training on how to deescalate a potentially dangerous situation.”
Resident couldn’t be woken for birthday
The commission also heard the story of an 85-year-old woman, referred to as Mrs CO, in the Brian King Gardens facility in Sydney’s north–west.
She had a series of issues during the last three years there, including serious neglect of her teeth.
Counsel assisting the commission Paul Bolster read out notes from her dentist.
“On presentation today I believe patient’s dentures have been left in the mouth for weeks, if not more. The result is significant decay in four months,” he read.
Mr Bolster said this neglect meant Mrs CO had to have three teeth removed.
Mrs CO’s daughters also recounted how their mother was prescribed an antidepressant so strong that she could not be woken during a visit on her birthday recently.
“They said that mum was reliving childhood memories of abuse that she had had and that she was continuing to be very agitated, crying and she was wandering a lot more and the nurses were finding this difficult,” one of her daughters told the commission.
“I’m not a doctor, I didn’t know what it was exactly. I put my faith in what was happening on their end, that this was what mum needed … and I feel so bad about it.”
Prescribing doctor Margaret Ginger also gave evidence to the commission and admitted that, on reflection, she was not happy with the prescription.