A Geelong aged care worker, in what seems to be a case of extreme carer burnout, has been found guilty of failing to provide care to her elderly mother.
Katarina Sluga was sentenced in the County Court of Victoria yesterday after pleading guilty to one count of negligence causing serious injury after a police welfare check in 2018 found Ms Sluga’s mother, Lidia, malnourished and covered in pressure sores.
Authorities were alerted to the situation after the neighbours of Ms Sluga’s Geelong home reported a concerning smell of decay from the property.
Officers who attended the home reported that up to 30 cats were living inside the premises and that floors were covered in rubbish and faeces. The home’s toilet and washing machine were also not working at the time.
Ms Sluga’s elderly mother was severely underweight when found by police and the court heard that she would have died had things continued without any medical intervention.
After being rescued by police, Lidia spent three weeks in hospital before being moved to an aged care facility. She died a short time after her arrival in aged care from causes that were deemed unrelated to the neglect she experienced in her home.
Judge Davis also highlighted that Ms Sluga was providing adequate care to her mother for a period of time before her mother’s medical needs increased and became more difficult to manage.
The court heard that Ms Sluga kept her on a regular diet for the majority of her time in her role as a primary carer and that she also positioned a bed on the floor next to her mother’s bed so that she could turn her mother and reduce the risk of pressure sores.
Judge Davis noted that Ms Sluga had become isolated from other members of her family while caring for her mother, and experts believe that she developed a depressive disorder before being found “stressed, tired and exhausted” when police arrived at the home in 2018.
As her mother’s medical needs increased, Ms Sluga became increasingly withdrawn and was refusing to ask for help from her family. At the time, she told police that she did not ask for external help because of her mother’s wishes to die at home.
According to Judge Davis, the disconnect from family and medical professionals meant that Ms Sluga “lost insight” into her mother’s care needs.
Ms Sluga was also not informed of her mother’s death or her funeral, which Judge Davis deemed an “extra curial [sic] punishment” by her family.
In a victim impact statement to the court, Ms Sluga’s brother, Charlie, said that he had been unable to work since learning of his mother’s neglect and that the circumstances had caused “great distress” between him and his siblings.
Judge Davis described Ms Sluga’s moral culpability in her mother’s neglect as “low” before sentencing.
Ms Sluga was handed an 18-month community corrections order which included mental health treatment and 100 hours of community service. She is also unable to leave the state of Victoria without permission.