Aged Care Royal Commission
Aged Care Royal Commission

Husband’s death was ‘unforgivable’, says wife

A MAN who died an "agonising" death in a North-West Tasmanian aged care facility felt dehumanised and treated like a piece of meat, a royal commission into the industry has heard.

A submission by Brian Harvey, who succumbed to his battle with prostate cancer in August, aged 84, was read to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which is holding hearings in Hobart this week.

Mr Harvey's diagnosis rendered him immobile and needing toileting assistance in his room at the Yaraandoo Hostel in Somerset, near Burnie.

"I ask the commissioners how they would feel if they were left alone on a mobile toilet, unable to stand up and get off, after being abandoned for 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, or 60 minutes, or even as long as 90 minutes," he wrote.

"I've been left like that for a long time on so many occasions I've lost count.

"Equally distressing experiences have involved lengthy delays waiting to be transferred from bed to the toilet, often with degradingly humiliating results.

"When neglected like that, I feel I have been dehumanised, left as a carcass in an aged care abattoir ready to be processed like a slab of meat in a sausage processing factory at some future time."

Mr Harvey, who had been a resident at the Yaraandoo facility since September 2017, wrote that "every second of every minute seems like an eternity" while he was waiting for assistance.

 

Ellie Valier and Brian Harvey in 2012.
Ellie Valier and Brian Harvey in 2012.

 

Mr Harvey's widow, Ellie Valier, told the commission that on one occasion in October last year she visited her husband to find him upset.

"He was very distressed. In fact, he was sobbing," she said.

Ms Valier explained her husband had to wait more than 80 minutes after pressing the call button to go to the toilet.

He could not wait any longer, managed to pull himself to the mobile toilet but then had an incident.

An emotional Ms Valier also spoke of her frustration at care plans for her husband not being adhered to, especially during the palliative stage of his life, issues with administering of medication, and communication issues when she raised concerns.

Ms Valier said those problems were exacerbated by a reduction in staffing hours from August last year and by the reassigning of two team leader positions within the facility.

"If I can simply say that he had an agonising death which on the information available to me .... was avoidable, inexcusable and unforgivable," she said.

"Brian, a very tactile, caring, loving individual who was a big 'huggy' kind of person, he wouldn't bear to be touched, so I couldn't hold him in my arms. I couldn't comfort him, I just had to watch."

The operations of two of Southern Cross Care's facilities - Yaraandoo Hostel and Launceston facility Glenara Lakes - are being examined this week.

Officials from Southern Cross Care are due to give evidence at the hearing tomorrow and Wednesday.



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