Aged care operators who don’t care properly for residents should face “heavy penalties”, says a family who saw their loved one endure a horrifying ordeal at the nursing home where he spent part of the final months of his life.

Eva Rinaldi, whose father Luigi Cantali was neglected at the aged care facility Carino Care Russell Lea, told HelloCare she was glad the facility’s problems are now out in the open.

“I’m glad someone’s bringing it to light now,” she said. “It’s a relief.”

“The nursing home made me feel like I was the bad one becuase I was asking about my dad,” she said.

Safety, health, wellbeing “at serious risk”

In May 2019, Carino Care Russell Lea failed to comply with 24 of the 44 quality standards, and was placed on a timetable for improvement.

Some of the failings identified in the audit report include: turnover in the management team, insufficient monitoring of staff, a “significant increase” in medication incidents, care recipients experiencing pain and distress from poor skin care, no system for managing incontinence, lack of skills to manage care recipients with “challenging behaviours”, and crowded communal areas.

The report also states staff lacked the skills to properly support palliative care. “Care recipients have died in pain and distress due to constipation, unmanaged pain and anxiety,” it tragically states.

Janet Anderson PSM, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, told HelloCare, “A decision was made that the failure to comply with seven expected outcomes of the Accreditation Standards has placed the safety, health or wellbeing of a consumer at serious risk.”  

The Department of Health may take further regulatory action, she said.  

The commission will continue to monitor the performance of the facility, and Carino Care Russell Lea will receive an unannounced audit before its period of accreditation expires at the end of November 2019, Ms Anderson said.

Carino Care Russell Lea issued a statement to HelloCare stating, “Carino Care has learnt from the audit and is working closely in a regulatory process with the Department of Health and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to remedy the non-compliance.”

The facility has engaged a nurse advisor and clinical consultant to help it meet the requirements of the timeframe for improvement.

“Carino Care takes its responsibilities as an approved provider of aged care seriously and is committed to and will improve the culture and care and service outcomes for the consumers who reside within the home,” the statement said.

Care became worse when family complained

Ms Rinaldi said that when her father, who was blind and living with dementia, was at Carino Care, she tried talking to management about her concerns he was not being properly cared for.

But her requests were ignored. The situation deteriorated further when management became aware Ms Rinaldi had placed a secret camera in her father’s room.

Management subsequently banned Ms Rinaldi from visiting her father for two weeks. “That’s when it (the care her father received) got even worse,” she said.

The family eventually made the difficult decision to move Mr Cantali to another facility, but sadly he died only days after moving.

“It was very difficult to make the decision (to move him) because I know it be be detrimental (to their health) to make changes,” Ms Rinaldi said.

Mr Cantali’s story “front and centre” of my mind: Minister

The Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck, told HelloCare that since taking on the aged care portfolio, stories such as that of Mr Cantali are “front and centre” of his mind.

“Mr Cantali deserved better care, what happened to him was completely unacceptable.

“I am advised Carino Care is working closely with the Department of Health and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to remedy this non-compliance.”

“The service has made weekly contact with the Department of Health to report on improvements being made. They have self-instigated the same actions they would be required to undertake if a formal sanction was put in place.”

“I am advised that Carino Care is implementing improvements including additional staffing; new policies and procedures; investment in resident amenities, and are working closely with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. 

“Our whole focus is on improving the delivery of Aged Care for Senior Australians.”

Cameras should be in all nursing homes

Ms Rinaldi told HelloCare she was disappointed the facility didn’t receive heavier penalties, even after the regulator identified such serious concerns. The facility’s failings had also been highlighted in a report by the ABC titled ‘This is what neglect looks like’.

“Something needs to be done. Something is seriously wrong,” Ms Rinaldi said.

Ms Rinald also recommends cameras be installed in all nursing homes, and that it be made easier to track the history of an aged care facility when it changes name.

Carino Care Russell Lea was formerly known as Ark Health Care Russell Lea and had failed a quality audit in May 2018.

“Even when the name changed, the staff remained the same,” Ms Rinaldi said, explaining she would never have sent her father to the facility had she known its history.

If anyone has a concern about an aged care service, they should contact the Commission on 1800 951 822.

HelloCare also contacted the Department of Health for a comment but at the time of writing had not yet received a response.

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