A 57-year-old former Blue Mountains nursing home worker has been charged with six counts of indecent assault in nursing homes. He was fired after the facility management received complaints from seven elderly women between 2011 and 2014.
The Daily Telegraph reported that seven elderly women had complained about the man for offences that allegedly took place between 2011 and 2014.
He was given strict bail conditions and ordered to appear before Katoomba local court.
Within a month of the Blue Mountains worker being charged, a Wollongong man was jailed for sexually abusing a vulnerable and disabled patient at a nursing home. The woman was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and a stroke, which left her speechless and with very limited movement, requiring 24 hour care.
He will spend a minimum of seven years behind bars and a lifetime ban issued by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission from healthcare work (both paid and unpaid). His earliest release date from prison is 2020.
The judge who heard the case said it was the worst she had seen during her time on the bench.
These cases are unfortunately not isolated events. The hearing at the Katoomba local court and the conviction of the Wollongong man are part of a pattern of a general increase in assaults against the elderly in nursing homes, with over 4000 sexual and physical assaults being reported in the last three years. However it is likely that this number only represents a portion of those assaulted, as many cases go unreported.
Out of those reported, 80 per cent of complaints relate to serious physical assaults, while 19 per cent were sexual (and one per cent was both).
Not all the assaults are committed by workers – visitors and other residents made up for 14 per cent of the allegations made, according to the Department of Health and Ageing.
One woman was horrified to learn that her elderly mother had been attacked in her sleep by an 84 year old resident, who, it later unfolded, had attacked other residents.
A nurse had heard her cry out and came in to room to see a man punching her in the chest with one hand and attempting to suffocate her with a pillow with his other hand.
Management stated (with questionable logic) that the attacks were never reported to the police because both residents were suffering from dementia.
With just over 2 million Australians in aged care and the number of nursing homes rising (the number nearly doubling in the last decade alone), this is an alarming prospect as many of Australians have parents, grandparents or other relatives in aged care.
According to Elder Care Watch spokesperson, Carol Williams, there are six nursing homes on notice for failure to report.
Other reports of abuse of people in nursing home included rolling one elderly patient in tomato sauce as a ‘practical joke’.
Tougher laws were introduced in 2007 after a number of highly publicised cases progressed through the courts, including one where a Victorian carer was found guilty of raping an elderly nursing home resident. Since the tougher laws were introduced, 15 people have been convicted under them, which has been attributed to the rise in education about the new law.
The new laws included compulsory reporting laws for nursing homes to report allegations of physical and sexual assaults within 24 hours to the Department.
They also introduced mandatory national police checks for aged-care staff and volunteers.
As well as being highly illegal, the actions of those who abuse elderly residents in nursing homes breach the Code of Conduct for unregistered practitioners, which states that health practitioners must provide health services in a safe and ethical manner.