May 22, 2023

Calls for cops to undergo dementia training

dementia patient restrained NSW police
81-year-old with dementia, Rachel Grahame, being restrained by six police officers. [Source: NSW Police bodycam footage]

New New South Wales (NSW) Police footage of an aged care resident with dementia being restrained by two sets of handcuffs at her Sydney nursing home has prompted calls for an independent inquiry into how police handle people with dementia.

The footage recently published by The Guardian shows 81-year-old, Rachel Grahame, in distress as a team of six police surround and handcuff her late at night after she took a staff member’s lanyard at St Basil’s aged care home in Randwick on October 31, 2020.

The footage showed that Ms Grahame was confused about the restraint and asked police why they were handcuffing her, screaming in discomfort at the tightness of the cuffs.

The incident prompted Ms Grahame’s family to sue NSW Police in the State’s district court which saw police pay her compensation for their treatment but the family has gone public with their calls for an inquiry into police after 95-year-old aged care resident Clare Nowland was tasered by police on Wednesday.

Ms Grahame’s daughter, Emma, told The Guardian her family was outraged to hear that police used a Taser on Ms Nowland, who is still in hospital in a stable condition.

“This is one of the reasons I am happy to go public now, to point out that this is not the first time that this has happened. It might bring other people out as well.”

The case also prompted a complaint against St Basil’s, which resulted in an investigation by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. The Commission described the actions of police and staff as “abhorrent” and sanctioned St Basil’s.

Police documents obtained by Emma show they were called to St Basil’s after Ms Grahame took some papers and an electronic tablet from a nursing station which were snatched back off of her by a nurse.

Ms Grahame grabbed the nurse’s clothes in response and when police arrived, she still had the nurse’s badge, lanyard and ID card and was physically restrained by six officers with two sets of handcuffs. 

The police notes indicate Ms Grahame struck out at three of the officers and that she was trying to bite, kick and strike them while they restrained her.

The notes also say police were “unable to reason with her” and that she was speaking “incoherently throughout the encounter”. Paramedics eventually arrived and took her to St Vincent’s Hospital where she stayed for six weeks. 

Emma said her mother received no apology from police and while she received some compensation in 2021, the family were still shocked the incident was considered a police matter and that Ms Grahame’s situation did not warrant an arrest. 

NSW police did not provide additional comment as the matter had already been compensated.

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  1. This incident should not have gone this far, what happened to the staff, they are supposed to be trained in Dementia Care, they failed this lovely lady, we as care givers and the people we work for are meant to have Dementia Care training. If the family were called in why couldn’t they get the knife off their mum, there is always at least one member of staff who has a special bond with a resident who could be called in to deflate the situation.. police don’t need training, the staff obviously need more training, especially night shift staff when there is limited staff. This is my opinion only, and I’m not an arm chair warrior, 30 years nursing in aged care, and years in a Dementia Specific Care Unit on lates.

    1. You’re absolutely on the mark and they could call them police the word cops is so disrespectful

  2. Perhaps just give staff staff in aged care better dementia specific training! Having worked in aged care for over 30 years this is definitely lacking! It is about manner of approach, tone of voice etc. if necessary walk away, take a breath and try again. Police have enough to deal with!! Come on “Providers” reduce you profits and spend some $’s where it counts!

  3. Common sense is needed in this situation, not dementia training. Unfortunately you can’t teach common sense.

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