Sep 24, 2018

Rough treatment in aged care is not assault, says magistrate: Four Corners

A magistrate threw out 12 charges of assault against two aged care workers, saying that “force” is sometimes “needed” when caring for elderly people.

When Ed Robins noticed bruising and skin tears on his then 92-year-old mother, he decided to secretly install a video camera in her room to try to find out what was happening when he wasn’t there.

Hidden security cameras reveal rough treatment

What he saw when he played back the video horrified him. His mother, who had recently broken her leg, is pushed and shoved roughly by her carers.

Mr Robins immediately called police, and two carers were charged with assault.

The ABC has released the video online, and it will be aired on Four Corners tonight, in the second episode of the series that has revealed the dark underside of the Australian aged care industry.

We have decided not to share the ABC video on HelloCare because the content is just too upsetting. It is available on the ABC website.

Magistrate: “obviously extra force is needed to achieve what has to be achieved”

Despite the video’s distressing content, magistrate Gregory Smith acquitted the carers of all charges. He said the carers were often extremely busy, and that Mrs Robins had frequently been “violent and abusive” towards staff.

He said using “force” against older people was sometimes necessary, likening caring for older people to caring for children.

“Perhaps if I were to give a quick example, placing of a two-year-old or a three-year-old into a car seat and trying to get their seatbelt done up,” he said.

“If that child is compliant, then some force is needed, but not much. If the child is resisting, then more force is needed. If the child is throwing a complete tantrum, then obviously extra force is needed to achieve what has to be achieved.”

Mr Robins was shocked by the magistrates findings. “She has been physically abused, in our eyes, and from what we were told by the police,” he told the ABC.

“I don’t think many Australian know what goes on [in aged care]. There should be cameras in every room,” he said.

Aged Care Minister: “The inappropriate treatment of people receiving aged care services is completely unacceptable”

Senior Australians and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM told HelloCare, “I understand concerns over the treatment of Mrs Robins and found the vision disturbing when I saw it during the Court case earlier this year.”

“Carers must be well-trained and compassionate because of the daily challenges they face when caring for our senior Australians, especially those living with dementia. The inappropriate treatment of people receiving aged care services is completely unacceptable.”

The Minister noted that the aged care home was ordered by the Department of Health to improve its practices and was placed under sanction for a time.

Ian Yates AM, CEO of the Council of the Ageing (COTA), told HelloCare, “That kind of treatment is totally unacceptable.”

“Whether or not it’s legally assault is beside the point, it’s certainly abuse. There appears to be a pattern of behaviour,” he said.

Mr Yates said it also appeared the staff were not properly trained because of the way they handled Mrs Robins.

The upcoming Royal Commission is likely to mean there will be many more reports like this one, and possibly worse, he said. The Commission must have proper systems in place to enable people to tell their stories, just as was done for the Child Abuse Royal Commission, he said.

Mr Yates also said it’s important the Royal Commission attempts to get to the bottom of the underlying causes of the type of “abusive behaviour” seen in Mrs Robin’s case so that it can make recommendations designed to stamp it out and prevent it from happening again.

Mr Yates said he hopes good operators can tell their stories in the Royal Commission, to identify what they are doing right. Changes to the aged care system should be introduced that allow good operators to increase the number of beds they have, he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Seems that yet again our judges – people we should have faith in – have let us all down. Maybe it will change if a judge is in this situation :/

  2. This Magistrate needs to go back to school and learn what abuse is, force is NEVER needed when dealing with aged care residents particularly those living with dementia, if they dont want to go to bed they dont have to, I have seen residents fordable put onto lifters because they didn’t want to do something and then when they objected given a drug to calm them and make them easier to handle, this resident managed to slide out of the lifter harness and fall onto the floor.
    Under no circumstances is force an appropriate way to handle residents. staff should be trained and supervised to use appropriate handling methods.
    I hope this royal commission brings out everything that is happening because while you have magistrates who think its ok to force people you will never have a safe system for our elderly.

  3. I cannot believe that anyone can justify this disgusting behaviour by the so called carers of this poor elderly patient
    I hope this so-called judge is brought to account by the Royal Commission
    It horrifies me that this is not deemed abuse

  4. Absolutely at no stage should ‘force’ be used on anyone, let alone frail and elderly nursing home residents. What a rediculous ruling when in today’s society if you look sideways at someone on a train they can have you before the courts. Our elderly are pushed, shoved and brow beaten by these bullies they call carers.
    I believe the fault lies with the administration of the nursing homes, where funding and money is always the topic of the day. Carers are chosen by budget constraints and people who are good at their jobs are not rewarded and or encouraged to keep working in tough environments. I saw both my parents go through the ‘system’. I complained, wrote letters, spoke to the Board, formalised my complaints with the Commissioner and very little if no change occurred, for both my parents or the other residents.

  5. Wait until you are old and in a Retirement village Mr Magistrate. I sincerely hope you don’t get abused or as you put it being treated like a child. For goodness sake get a grip of what is happening and show some backbone.

  6. I work in aged care and have done for 6 and1/2 years. I care for residents with dementia on a daily basis. If you need to be forceful with these residents you are in the wrong job. It comes down to attitude, empathy, teamwork, communication, patience, respect, dignity and genuine caring. I love my job and wouldnt change it for anything.
    Being in a small country town you get to know every resident personally. They come to know and trust their carers.
    Care homes are usally the last place aged people live while they are waiting for their ticket to heaven.
    A guard of houor is always formed by staff when they pass on.
    We want the last of their memories to be lived out in dignity, have privacy and be content at the end of their life.
    I treat each and every one of my residents with the respect they deserve as though they were all my very own parents.

  7. I agree with the other comments. Force is never acceptable. The problem is not just the aged care system but also the justice system in this country. How can people abuse other people and there is no consequence to it? It is bad enough the increase in crime we face, with the lax sentencing but our dearest seniors who cannot protect themselves should be safe. In every facility I have been in they emphasise that this is the resident’s home and everyone needs to respect that. Then the actions fall very short of that. There are better staff and better homes but in the not so good ones and not such good staff it is all about trying to get the job done in time and the resident needs to work in with the schedule and if they don’t, well …..I am so glad that this is being looked into. I just hope that the people who can make changes look into this with empathy, with open eyes and hearts. No one knows if we will end up in a home and how dependant we will be on others for our every need. It is the most frightening thought.

Banner Banner
Banner Banner

Senior rescue dogs dressed as older people in bid to find their ‘forever home’

All dogs want love, especially the older ones. So one rescue centre in Florida has done dress up photoshoots for their older pups to help them get adopted. Read More

After losing her mother, this grandmother retrained in aged care and went back to work at 74

The single mother of three has multiple degrees, has worked in at least three different industries, and suffered the loss of a parent after years of being their carer. Read More

Union demands COVID-19 leave payments remain for aged care workers

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has demanded that the new Federal Government reverse a decision to scrap the COVID-19 leave disaster payment. Read More
Banner Banner