An 84-year old nursing home resident has avoided jail after pleading guilty to a vicious knife attack on a fellow resident that occurred on June 29, 2015.
Guy Joseph Wohrnitz was initially charged with attempted murder after a violent incident that resulted in 76-year-old Allen Esther needing 17 stitches to his nose and cheeks and left with permanent dis-figuration of his nose.
The Brisbane Supreme Court heard that the two men had been involved in a prior altercation at the Masonic Aged Care Facility in Sandgate, east of Brisbane, on the day of the attack.
It is believed that Mr Esther struck Mr Wohrnitz on the hand earlier in the day, which resulted in Mr Wohrnitz returning hours later armed with an 8-inch kitchen knife.
Staff who witnessed the ensuing attack initially thought that Mr Wohrnitz was throwing punches at the victim but quickly realised that he was slashing and stabbing at his victims face.
In the moments following the attack, staff found Mr Wohrnitz sitting outside on a verandah while sipping on a coffee and eating ice-cream before telling staff “Call the police, I am happy to go.”
Attempted murder charges against Mr Wohrnitz were dropped earlier this week in exchange for him pleading guilty to one count of a malicious act undertaken with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Mr. Wohrnitz received a five-year suspended sentence for the attack after already serving 220 days in custody following his arrest in 2015.
The court heard that Mr Wohrnitz had previously lived a very solitary lifestyle and was having trouble interacting with people and adjusting to life in a nursing home.
Justice Thomas Bradley told the court that he chose to suspend Mr Wohrnitz’ prison sentence because five years imprisonment could be considered a life sentence for an 84-year-old man living with dementia.
Earlier this year Federal Health Department Secretary, Glenys Beauchamp, told the Royal Commission that there were almost 4,000 assaults reported in Australian nursing homes from 2017-18, but the real number is likely to be much higher.
Australian aged care assault statistics do not currently include incidents in which a cognitively impaired resident attacks a fellow resident, and this lack of reporting makes it very difficult to understand just how prevalent this problem really is.
However, Australian research published in 2017 does identify 28 deaths from resident-to-resident aggression in Australian aged care homes across a 14 year period.
According to this research, almost 90% of the residents involved in resident-to resident aggression in Australian nursing homes have a dementia diagnosis, while three quarters had a history of behavioural problems.
Data also showed that the exhibitors of aggression were often younger and more recently admitted to the nursing home than their targets, and incidents most commonly involved a “push and fall scenario.”
Preventing aggressive behavior between residents can be extremely challenging, and current best practice revolves around preventing the likelihood of aggression through collaborative assessment and intervention before things escalate.
Determining past triggers and assessing environmental factors can are also viewed as key elements in quelling aggressive behavior between aged care residents.