This article ventures into the disturbing topic of carers who commit the ultimate betrayal: they kill the person – often vulnerable and frail – who they are supposed to be caring for.
In a special investigation, the ABC has gone back through court records over the last fifteen years, and discovered that on average, one person with a disability is killed by their carer every three months.
It’s a shocking statistic, that has us wondering how could this possibly happen? How does it come to be that carers feel so desperate they take the life of another, even someone they love dearly?
Why do some carers act out?
According to the report, there are a number of reasons that carers kill the person who is in their care.
Sometimes a devoted carer can’t bear to see a loved one in pain and is attempting to end their suffering. Though of course we all understand that it is never okay to take the life of another, killings such as these, could perhaps be considered ‘mercy killings’.
Other times the burden of caring becomes too much and no way other out can be perceived.
At other times the killer may have financial motives.
The research touches on a topic that we have covered in HelloCare previously.
Not an isolated event
Earlier this year, we covered the story of the elderly man who was accused of killing his wife in their Perth home.
He was in the later stages of cancer and his wife had advanced dementia; both of their health was deteriorating.
Media reports at the time claimed that the husband, who was aged 85, had been “devoted” to his wife of 63 years, and suggested that though there was no clear motive, the murder was the result of the couple’s “desperate” situation.
These are not isolated incidents. The ABC research shows that carers choosing to take the lives of those they are caring for is disturbingly common. Incidents such as these have been reported all over the world.
While these are extreme examples, we wonder if the system has somehow failed family carers to the extent they feel so desperate that ending their loved one’s life is the only way they can see out of it.
Though the maximum government support for carers funds eights hours of care per day, often family carers are providing support around the clock – and often with minimal help. Many are sleep deprived, feel socially isolated, and are sometimes alone and isolated from the community.
What is the media’s responsibility in these cases?
Reporting on these cases takes readers into the darkest realms of human behaviour. It is a disturbing topic.
But it is our view that in order to improve the situation – to provide more support for carers and vulnerable people, we must be open about the difficulties.
What can you do?
If you or someone you know is struggling at the moment, there is help out there – it’s just a matter of finding where you can get support. Make contact with someone close to you or one of the services below to talk things through.
If you know someone caring for a loved one or friend, check up on them regularly, go and lend a hand or do something nice to show you are thinking of them. They will probably never accept or tell you they need help.
You can call Lifeline’s 24-hour telephone crisis line on 13 11 14.
For emergency respite care, contact a Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre (CRCC) on 1800 052 222 (1800 059 059 outside business hours). You can contact your nearest CRCC, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You may also be able to access other support, including crisis counselling, through your state-based carer association. Call Carers Australia on 1800 242 636.
Emergency – Ambulance, Fire or Police
In an emergency, always call triple zero (000).