The fourth day of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings in Darwin heard damning evidence and a desperate plea from a former journalist urging all Australians with relatives currently living in nursing homes to install surveillance cameras in the rooms of their loved ones.
Lisa Backhouse, gave detailed testimony outlining the alleged abuse and neglect of her 86-year-old mother, Christine Weightman, while she resided in nursing homes in the Brisbane area.
According to Ms. Backhouse, her mother was physically assaulted on multiple occasions by nursing home carers who have since been stood down and found saturated in her bed and highly distressed.
The commission also heard allegations that Ms. Weightman was left lying on the floor of her room for nearly 45 minutes after a fall, and graphically disturbing images revealing the effects of appalling incontinency care were also shown.
Lisa Backhouse spoke to news cameras outside of the Royal Commission hearing, sharing her thoughts on her mother’s experience
“The incidents that she endured over the last six months, I believe have certainly contributed to her demise.”
Suspicious about the quality of her mother’s care, Ms. Backhouse installed surveillance cameras in the bedroom of her mother’s Brisbane based nursing home, which revealed disturbing footage of Ms. Weightman sleeping through one of Brisbane’s coldest nights without a blanket and only a pillow covering her legs.
Ms. Backhouse also alleges that surveillance shows her mother left completely unchecked for large periods of time including 10 hours with no visible signs of interaction.
“If you have an elderly, vulnerable resident in an aged care centre in Australia today, go out and buy yourself a surveillance camera, and put it in their room,” said Lisa Backhouse.
“I think we really need to shine a light in some very dark corners in the Australian aged-care sector.”
“If the facility tells you not [install surveillance], do it anyway.
Ms. Backhouse did not reveal the name of the Brisbane aged-care centre where her mother’s abuse allegedly occurred, but she did reveal that her mother was actually still a resident there.
“The regulator has to be given punitive powers in order to be able to fine and penalise nursing homes that fail in their duty of care,” Ms. Backhouse said.
“And boards need to be held personally and criminally responsible for also failing in their duty of care.
“This is the only way we are really going to be able to force change on the sector.”
In her statement, Ms. Backhouse described the “current situation (in aged care) is heartbreaking at best, criminal at worst.”
“When we look back in years to come, much like the orphanages of yesteryear, this will be our country’s greatest shame,” she said.