Left In Soiled Clothes: Family Shocked At Aged Care Home Care
Kristina Shepherd's father George was in the Bupa Seaforth aged care home for just 21 days before she pulled him out.
Despite paying a "motza" to get him in the shiny new facility, within spitting distance of Peach Tree Bay on Sydney's north shore, Shepherd cut ties with the home after just three weeks.
She claimed her father had been left unwashed in soiled clothing for hours at a time, that his bathroom floor had been left uncleaned and covered in faeces, and as well that there were lax procedures around medication and care.
"The expectation was that if we paid the top level of price for this product, we must be getting the best. You think they must have so much money to splash on what they need, but it’s so far from the truth," she told ten daily.
"If I had a message to people, it's to not think that if you're paying more, you're getting more. You might not even get the basics."
In a statement, a Bupa spokesperson said the company had apologised to the family.
"We understand and appreciate how much trust families place on our services. Mrs Shepherd’s concerns have been taken seriously, and Bupa’s Chief Medical Officer has recently spoken with the family," the spokesperson said.
"Recent events have shown we sometimes fail to live up to the high standards we set, and we are committed to addressing this."
The company said an "external expert" would review events at the Seaforth facility, which Bupa admitted were "shocking". An independent consumer expert will also make recommendations for improvements across the company's care network.
Shepherd came forward with her story after news broke earlier this month of a worker at the Seaforth facility allegedly shoving and hitting an elderly dementia patient with a shoe.
The disturbing footage was captured by a camera the resident's daughter secretly set up in the room, after bruises appeared on the 82-year-old's legs.
Police arrested and charged a 35-year-old Hornsby man over the incident. Bupa said it was "shocked and saddened" by the allegations, and that the employee had been dismissed.
The spotlight has turned to the nation's aged care system in recent months, with a spate of ugly and criminal incidents targeting the elderly or invalid.
The ABC's Four Corners program is due to broadcast a special on Australia's care sector on Monday night, with the government pre-empting shocking allegations and announcing a royal commission into the industry.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison pointed to the scandal over the Oakden nursing home in South Australia, and recent statistics showing a huge increase in incidents in the sector, as reasons for the royal commission.
New government statistics show a 177 per cent increase in the number of aged care homes where a serious risk to residents was identified in the last financial year, and a 292 per cent increase in the number of facilities that refused to comply with rules.
"Walking by these statistics was not possible," Morrison said.
Shepherd outlined her claims in a letter to Bupa management on September 7, days after charges were laid against the former Seaforth employee.
She said she was "not surprised" by the allegations made, and called Seaforth "an absolute mess".
"It was very expensive and newly opened, it presented really well. [George] ended up being there only after 21 days, because when we got in there, we very quickly noticed not all was as it seemed. It was really below par in many ways," she told ten daily.
"I was really disappointed."
She claimed family had found her father's room dirty and messy on the day they moved in, and things didn't get better after that.
"My sister and I live out of Sydney -- we live rural -- but we would go every day to settle him in. We repeatedly found him unwashed and unshaven, sitting in wet clothes," Shepherd said.
"With his Alzheimer's, he had just started having issues with fecal incontinence. It was new and needed management, but there was no management about it, despite us calling for meetings about policy and procedure."
"One day I got in, shortly into his stay, and there was feces on the floor in the bathroom. I spent an hour trying to get an cleaner, and eventually a care worker just got a paper towel and wiped it and put it into a basket."
Shepherd claimed her father wasn't offered any activities -- "he just sat in his room" -- and that staff were not attentive.
"The care manager was just woeful. She ran in and put his medication on the table and walked out," she said.
"There were so few staff, it was really alarming. You would wander the corridors for ages and not see anyone."
Shepherd outlined her claims in a letter to Bupa. She said a company medical officer contacted her soon after.
"I challenged him on certain things. It was quite a productive chat, but I’m cynical to these things, so whether they walk the walk is a different thing," she said.
Shepherd said George has since been moved to a "fantastic" new facility at Westmead in Sydney's west, and said she hoped the royal commission would look at day-to-day failings in the aged care sector -- not just the high-profile criminal cases.
"If I had a message to people, it's to not think that if you're paying more, you're getting more. You might not even get the basics," she said.
"Who answers to that? I hope that comes out in the royal commission."