Sep 23, 2019

The 2 Year Stakeout – Ex Cop Gives Insights Into Aged Care Experience

– The Story Of Ross Baker –


I have always had a close relationship with mum, so when it became apparent that mum had really started to get frail and began showing signs of dementia, I made the decision to leave Tasmania and move back into my parents’ family home in Victoria.

Mum had always been an independent person, which is why it came as no surprise when she refused the help of home care workers for tasks like bathing.

But when she refused the assistance of a walker and sustained a number of injuries from falls, my father and I were left with no alternatives and had to put mum into an aged care facility.

After 17 years as a police officer, you develop a very keen eye for observation, and it didn’t take very long for me to understand that my mother’s wellbeing was going to have to depend on how often I could be there with her. 

I go into the home every day for both lunch and dinner to assist with my mother’s feeding, and these visits have given me a greater understanding of what my mother has to go through, as well as the experience of other residents. 

My mother’s first year in aged care was spent in a dementia ward, and it was extremely troubling to have to watch the repetitive and lonely existence that most residents were made to live through. 

One gentleman spent the majority of his days walking up and down the corridors, occasionally venturing into other people’s rooms and causing a minor disruption. 

When the man was removed from another residents room by staff, he became agitated, causing staff to resort to medicating this gentleman into a state that resembled a zombie. 

This cycle progressed until it got to the point where I only ever saw this man highly medicated and slumped over in a chair, and this rapid deterioration continued until his death.

I’m not sure what other medical conditions this man may have had, but watching from a distance, it almost felt like this poor chap died from boredom. 

No one took the time to understand a way to engage this person, and unlike my mum, he never had any visitors.

Generally speaking, the majority of staff seemed like great people, but it became very apparent that they did not have the time or resources to understand the needs of the people they cared for on an emotional level. 

The majority of staff time was focused on preventing physical injury and preventing an escape – and as a former policeman, the only thing that I could liken that experience to, would be jail.

Without my presence in the home, my mother would have been a prime candidate to experience the same fate as that poor gentleman, and staff actually told me how happy they were when my mother became wheelchair-bound. 

While I understood that this would lessen her chance of falls, the fact that a staff member saw my mother’s lack of mobility as a good thing, actually spoke volumes about the attitude that staff must adopt in order to deal with the conditions that they face. 

It didn’t feel human, in fact, it felt like they were caring for animals. 

After being confined to a wheelchair, my mother was then moved out of the dementia area and placed among the general population of the aged care facility, but the problems I witnessed earlier became even more apparent. 

I try to talk with as many residents as possible, and they relish every opportunity to speak as much as possible. These are not people who are quiet and relaxed, they are actually mentally disengaged and completely starved of attention.

The activities coordinator is only at the facility five days a week, and the residents without weekend visitors spend their days confined to staring at a TV program that they often don’t understand, or their room.

The chosen activities seem to engage a few of the residents, but those with dementia seem puzzled or unaware of the activity that they are supposed to be a part of. 

Personally, I always thought that people with special needs would require special care, but the one-size-fits-all approach to activity is a prime example of the way in which staff are forced to deal with the majority of issues that they face. 

Nowadays, my mother spends the majority of her day in her bed with the covers pushed to the side or on the floor.

Every time I point this out to staff, I am told that she must be hot, even though I have repeatedly told them that she grew up quilting and she is simply playing with the blankets because she thinks that she is working with them.

And to this day, I still have to cover mum with her blankets when I arrive.

While I am well aware that understanding a person’s needs can take time, failing to meet the needs of an individual when you have been given that insight directly, makes it feel as though this knowledge is unwanted, or at the very least, treated as an afterthought.

I was told that my mother was incapable of drinking fluids on her own but quickly realised that the issue was actually the size of the cup she was being given, as her frailty would not allow her to grip the cups normally.

After explaining this to management, I was told that they understood and that my mother would be given a smaller sized cup, only to find her equipped with the same cup later in the week, and nobody who was aware of her needs for the smaller cup.

After taking the manager to task on this issue once again, in a less-than-friendly manner – The following day my mother did have a small cup that she was able to use, and I was told by the chef that they actually went and got that cup specifically for her. 

My mother is actually drinking by herself now, but had I not noticed, or not been as outraged as I was, I have no doubt that this would have gone unnoticed, as I am sure that it does for many others in this facility. 

In my opinion, aged care lacks the appropriate number of staff, and a number of the staff that I see employed are not equipped with the appropriate attitude or skills to deal with the needs of a frail person with dementia. 

And the only reason that even more people are not up in arms is simply because they don’t visit often enough to notice, or they bury their heads in the sand because of guilt due to the fact that they don’t visit as much as they should.

The people in aged care homes deserve to be treated like anyone else who is in need of care and understanding, regardless of whether they have dementia or not. 

My mother’s name is Beryl Baker, and she is a 90-year-old woman who means the world to me, and she, like everyone else in aged care, deserves to have an aged care system that treats her like a person who ‘is,’ not someone who ‘was.’ 

 

 

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  1. You couldn’t get a more exact insight into a Nursing Home that what this man has written. His 4th last paragraph says it all, what he has written is so precise. I cannot dispute anything in the article, the reason for her playing with her blankets; if she had a Personal Care Plan it would have stated that, also the cup should have been noted in her paper work and the kitchen staff notified and changed their paper work. Everything comes down to documentation so if all the staff were unable to come to work, Agency staff only need to pick up the Residents Personal Care Plan to give them insight into the Residents need. As for visitors yes very few make regular visits, week ends should be the time of visits and take those who are capable out to lunch or for coffee. Once again a great article.

  2. Sir, you have hit the nail on the head! Aged care residential facilities and also hospitals are not the place to be unless you have someone to look out for you. Which is very sad 😥😥

  3. Thankyou Ross for your candid assessment of your mothers care. As a former nurse and educator I am amazed at the culture you often find in Aged Care facilities. Obviously change needs to occur and maybe you are right it needs to be instigated by family – God help those who don’t have family visiting or caring for them.

  4. Totally agree, my mother 94 with dementia has been in a nursing home for nearly 6 years. I am a registered nurse so the staff can’t ignore my concerns over the years. I am there nearly every day sometimes & have had to step numerous times not only for my mother but for other residents. I even confronted the accreditation team who approved this nursing home knowing the lack of staffing, resources, skill, low morale due to poor pay had consequences on our vulnerable older persons. She ticked them off so I included that the accreditors also needed review & questioned in my submission to Royal Commission. Since changes to person centre July 2019 the nursing home has improved tremendously, but still need to visit regularly to keep an eye matters, & give extra care to my mother plus spend an extra $3000.00 a month for regular 1-1 care/company that she needs. We are lucky we have the resources for that but so many don’t. I also give clothing to two residents where families have just abandoned them, no visits , no clothing!!!

  5. Wow. You are exactly correct in everything you say. Everything!!! When a resident is constantly trying to get out of a low low bed and crawls onto a crash mat with sensor mat on it or keeps trying to slide down their chair when staff are busy adding more stress to the few staff in Dementia. All they need is a walk. Yes a walk. To build muscle tone. Where are the physios you may ask. Well they have cut back on them as well. It just amazes me that the most simplistic of human needs in these places are being pushed out the door to save money. Why do so many companies keep opening g residential care homes when they must not be able to afford to?? They rely on government handouts from pad allocations to ACFI. Everyone is trying to “cash in” on the elderly. In 20 years alot of elderly will have to be fully funded not just a percentage as is the case now.They wont see “Extra Services” like the more wealthier residents which include extra bus trips and hot breakfasts every morning. Or alcohol with a meal. Hair dressing, beauty parlour treatment etc. If more families had a roster to look after their loved ones like a few wonderful families do at my place they wouldn’t need ‘Extra Services” I’m sure. Someone has come up with a good concept is an aged Care place on the North of Brisbane where it is designed like a small town with a barber for the men and hair dresser for the ladies. There is a shop to get your food items as well so if you were low care independent you could take yourself for a lovely walk in this makeshift little town and always feel like you had freedom to do what you used to do. They have a music room. Where anyone could turn up to play an instrument or sing to a resident playing a piano. They would be walking off of the street to these little businesses all run by qualified staff. They have homes that look like homes that are shared only with 7 residents In each house. One care worker for each home. It must cost alot but I hear there is a long waiting list. I can keep dreaming I suppose.

  6. Mr. Baker – If you have not already done so, please send your article, just as it it to the Royal Commission into Aged Care. You have articulated very clearly much of what is wrong with Aged Care facilities in this country and identified a culture and mindset which does not value the elderly. I have seen it, I have lived it and I confirm that everything you have said is true. The Aged Care industry urgently needs a major overhaul both at the private and public sector level.

    Kelly Cleary, above, has described a model of care which is a vast improvement on the “warehousing ” systems that most aged care institutions operate. However, I would not be convinced that the North Brisbane facility was any better in terms of care until I saw the level of staff ratios, qualifications of the staff and the temperament and characteristics of both management and staff.

    Too many nursing institutions run by the big end of town look like lovely hotels from the outside. Yet, all the luxurious interior & exterior decorations in the world would not make an ounce of difference to the care of our elderly if the right people were not in the right job and ratios etc. were not any different to what we currently have in nearly every nursing facility in this country.

  7. Fantastic review and so accurate. I experienced my father being neglected in the aged care system, he died prematurely due to lack of care and neglect. The facility got a slap on the wrist. Disgusted with the result.
    My mother has gone into a different facility, so I am also moving back to visit her daily. I cannot fault where she is, yes they are understaffed as many will tell you. But the staff that are there are amazing and go out of their way for the residents.

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