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ROYAL COMMISSION: Facilities struggle to meet basic care needs

Last Friday, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety added an extra day to their Darwin hearings, listening to evidence about a 79 year old man’s experience in the aged care system where he was over-medicated and not attended to appropriately.

The before and after photo of Ms Jo-Ann Lovegrove's father on psychotropic medication. [Source: Aged Care Royal Commission]

Jo-Ann Lovegrove read out her statement about her father’s care in the Northern Territory, both in a remote area and in the city, which didn’t meet his high care needs for his Alzheimer’s and severe vision impairment, macular degeneration.

At times, Ms Lovegrove had to continuously ask one facility to provide him with appropriate care, including frequently reminding staff to provide her father with water.

Even with his vision impairment and Alzheimer’s, his room was not equipped with crash mats, motion sensors, bed rails or handrails.

Ms Lovegrove says, “I had continually asked the hostel if they had a plan in place to deal with Dad’s condition as it progressively got worse. The regional facility response was always “Yes, we are in touch with Dementia Support Australia regularly.”

“My visits to the regional facility were limited to weekends due to the distance in travel. During my visits, I would notice that his room and ensuite were not always clean. This had meant that there was constantly urine on the floor and around the toilet area.”

On many occasions, her father had fallen over, sometimes due to the urine on the floor, or because of his condition.

After one fall where he broke his hip, it was decided her father needed to be in Darwin closer to Ms Lovegrove. However, this took away some of his lifestyle needs and wants, including his ability to smoke and keep his dog in the facility.

His new nursing home would not allow sidebars on his bed, because it was considered a restraint on the resident.

Along with restrictions to keep her father safe, Ms Lovegrove often found her father cold and staff would not help him put on shoes and socks unless she asked.

In late 2018, Ms Lovegrove began finding her father covered in injuries, including dried blood on his face with skin tears to his arms and legs, almost daily.

Outbursts from her father resulted in the prescription of psychotropic medication to “calm him,” which was administered without authorisation.

Ms Lovegrove says, “I have noted that, since the doctor prescribed Lorazepam, Dad seems to spend more time in bed. This has led to a bedsore on his bottom. 

“I’m disturbed by the amount of time he now seems to spend in his bed and I can’t help but feel that this suits the staff of the Darwin facility more than it suits Dad. 

“These drugs had put my Dad into such a confused state; he looks as though he has – he isn’t mentally present. “

The rest of Ms Lovegrove’s statement was read out by Senior Counsel Assisting Mr Peter Gray QC, included her belief that the facility lacked staff training and knowledge of dementia.

She wanted the Royal Commission to understand that the sector requires more funding for staffing levels to provide adequate care in high-level need places like dementia wards.

Hearings continue today, July 15, in Cairns, QLD.


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