Another shocking case of abuse in an aged care home has, sadly, been revealed. This time an aged care worker was caught on a secretly-filmed video repeatedly hitting an elderly resident. The matter was heard in court yesterday.
Fifty-nine year old carer Dana Maree Gray has pleaded guilty to assaulting an 85-year old resident in 2017 at a nursing home in Sydney’s North Epping.
Magistrate Robyn Denes rejected Ms Gray’s request to have the case heard under the Mental Health Act.
Disturbing footage was shown in court of Ms Gray slapping the elderly woman, and then hitting her with a bag of rubbish.
Ms Gray also raised the woman’s bed to such a height, and then left her, so that the frail woman was not able to get out of bed for some hours.
The woman, who was living with advanced dementia, could be heard crying out in the video.
The video was secretly recorded by a co-worker who was concerned about her colleague’s work. The footage was so shocking one court official walked out of the court visibly upset.
“Anyone who watched the video could not help but be moved,” Ms Denes said.
“This is a person, the complainant, who is a real person, who is extremely vulnerable in a place where she is supposed to be being cared for,” said Ms Denes.
Prosecutor Sergeant Ben Lee said the footage revealed a “nightmare type scenario”. He argued the matter should not be heard under the Mental Health Act.
“What the court has before it today is a completely innocent, helpless, totally vulnerable human being who is being abused by the staff member who is assigned to care for her,” he said.
Carer had a history of mental illness
Ms Gray appeared to be upset during the hearing, occasionally wiping her face with a tissue. A letter she wrote apologising to the elderly woman’s family was tendered to the court.
“I have worked in the care industry for about 17 years in after school care, disability support and aged care (mostly dementia),” the letter said.
“I have loved all of these jobs although dementia can get very stressful. I was overdue for holidays and had issues with my health and in my personal life, also not having support when reporting residents’ issues.
“Everything compounding may have contributed to my actions on that day, but by no means any excuse,” she wrote.
The court heard that Ms Gray had in the past been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Her husband had died suddenly, and she was subjected to assaults and possibly sexual abuse as a child.
Must not “medicalise the most atrocious conduct”
But Magistrate Robyn Denes said she would not allow the matter to be heard under the Mental Health Act because it would “medicalise the most atrocious conduct”.
“This was ongoing gratuitous violence, that final act of hitting her over the head with the rubbish and then leaving the bed high… leaves her with no dignity,” said Ms Denes.
Because the elderly woman was living with advanced dementia at the time of the assault, she was unable to report the incident.
Ms Gray will return to court for sentencing on 15 August.