Aged care horror: Sores infected by faeces

AN elderly woman who died riddled with faeces-infected pressure sores and an entirely treatable infection should still be alive, her grieving children say.

The aged care royal commission has heard distressing details about the death of beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Muriel Barnes exactly one year ago.

On August 9, 2018 the 90-year-old died in hospital a week after being rushed there in a critical and unresponsive state.

When doctors examined the type 2 diabetic, they found pressure sores on her buttocks and her leg that were infected with faecal matter.

Muriel Barnes
Muriel Barnes

She had a serious urinary tract infection, and her blood sugar levels were off the scale, so high that the hospital's metre could not read it.

Daughter Debra Barnes spent the anniversary of her mum's death telling the commission she felt powerless despite her repeated attempts to improve the care her mum was receiving at the home, which cannot be named.

She said she also felt a federal agency set up to deal with aged care complaints had failed her family.

Mrs Barnes was put into the high-care unit of the home in early 2016, after breaking a hip and suffering cognitive decline.

Her daughter was with her at the home almost every day.

"I didn't mind coming across as a busybody if it meant I could ask all of the questions that needed to be asked on mum's behalf," she told the commission, which is sitting in Brisbane.

But she said the home quickly showed it wasn't willing to property engage with her concerns, and only responded to about a quarter of the 60 or so issues she raised.

They included failures to update her mother's care plan and failing to take her to appointments.

She said staff called her in May last year, saying her mum needed to go to hospital, where she was found to have a urinary tract infection and high blood sugar levels.

She was treated and returned to the home with new guidelines in place to keep her mother hydrated but Ms Barnes said she frequently found her mother with no water by her bed, and if there was water it was often out of reach.

Siblings Graham, Debra and Michael Barnes leave court this morning. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
Siblings Graham, Debra and Michael Barnes leave court this morning. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Ms Barnes said that when she challenged the home's clinical nurse educator about why no one had done a two-day fluid intake audit, she was told "they did not provide acute care and it was up to mum as to what she did or did not drink".

"I simply could not understand how that would not be a part of the care that they would offer mum."

By the middle of last year, Ms Barnes said she had very serious concerns about the home's ability to provide proper care but things took a turn for the worse on August 2, when her sister went to the home and found her mother unresponsive.

She was rushed to hospital where she died a week later, leaving Ms Barnes with "an overwhelming and absolutely certain feeling that she didn't get the care that she should have received."

In September 2018, Ms Barnes lodged the case with the Aged Care Complaints Commission, now the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

By January this year, having received no updates, she chased the matter up but was advised her emails "may have been lost in the system".

In April, the commission finally advised that the case would cease, because the home had "addressed the issues to the satisfaction of the commissioner".

The commission's Brisbane hearings are due to conclude later on Friday.