An aged care worker has been sentenced to 17 months’ detention for repeatedly hitting a frail and elderly resident.

Though the details of this case are deeply distressing, we believe that cases like this need to be brought to light, firstly, to ensure the perpetrators can’t repeat their crimes, but also to raise awareness that these incidents do, from time to time, unfortunately occur.

Regulations are in place to protect vulnerable residents, but we must also be alert to the facts, and be vigilant in protecting the safety of residents. To be able to fix this problem, we must be able to openly talk about the issues.

Magistrate: “Gratuitous cruelty”

In 2017, a colleague of Dana Gray became concerned about her work and began to fear for residents’ safety. So she secretly installed a video recorder in a resident’s room.

The video footage recorded showed Ms Gray hitting an 85-year-old resident and then roughly pulling off her glasses, cardigan and bra, leaving her exposed, and then hitting her with a bag of rubbish. The elderly woman screamed and cried throughout the recording.

Ms Gray also raised the woman’s bed to chest height, meaning the woman was unable to get out of bed for hours.

Ms Gray’s actions showed “gratuitous cruelty” that amounted to “domestic violence”, Magistrate Robyn Denes told the court.

“It seemed to me that all your frustrations, all your anger was taken out on this lady,” she said.

She said the elderly woman was “vulnerable”, and Ms Gray was in a “position of trust”.

“She cannot complain, she doesn’t have the ability to protect herself, she is entirely defenceless,” Ms Denes said.

Ms Denes said Ms Gray had shown little remorse for her actions, even though she had pleaded guilty.

“The degree of violence used in this instance is extreme,” she said.

“Worst nightmare” for families with loved ones in aged care

It is often a difficult decision to place a loved one into aged care. But when we do, we expect they will be respected and cared for and, at the very least, kept safe.

Ms Denes said families who put their loved ones into aged care would be extremely troubled by Ms Gray’s actions.

“What happened [to the elderly woman] is everyone’s worst nightmare,” she said.

Ms Gray, who is 58, was sentenced to 17 months’ detention, with a non-parole period of six months, which she may serve in prison or at home.

Ms Denes granted Ms Gray bail, and Ms Gray will be assessed for her suitability to serve out her detention at home.

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