Avoidable Death in a Hunter Aged Care Facility
By Catherine Henry 
We helped clients sue an aged care facility over the death of their mother (and grandmother) while in the facility’s care.
The family reluctantly decided to place their then 87-year old grandmother into an aged care facility when the toll of providing around-the-clock care proved too much. The much-loved matriarch died within three months. We alleged negligence on the part of the facility arguing that a wound on the grandmother’s foot was allowed to fester until an infection took hold that left her incoherent and barely conscious. The woman was diabetic and had osteoporosis but was otherwise in good health upon moving into the facility.
When visiting, family members found dried-up pus from burst blisters and medical tape plastered to her foot. The granddaughter was listed as her grandmother’s medical care decision-maker on paper with an enduring guardian document but she felt powerless. She said systems made it difficult for families to try and advocate medically on behalf of residents. Before the woman’s death our clients’ family had to argue with the facility’s staff to admit their loved one to hospital.
Our clients said making the case against the facility was about saving another family from being robbed of precious time with a loved one in their twilight years.
“All I’ve ever really wanted from this was just the acknowledgement that things could have been different and may not have ended the way they did if things were dealt with properly. Nan left an amazing legacy in the family that she’s got but if change can be part of her legacy that would be even better” the granddaughter said.
From our work with clients with similar cases, it is clear to us that the negligent management of pressure sores is rife within the aged care sector. Clinicians will say that pressure sores are always avoidable. Stricter regulation of the industry particularly in regard to the quality and quantity of nursing at aged care facilities is desperately needed but successive governments have shown little appetite for necessary reforms over the last two to three decades.
It is often left to the court system to improve standards of patient care. Bringing a negligence case against an aged care facility holds that facility to account and also acts as a deterrent to other operators.
Our clients successfully resolved their case.
If you or someone you know needs legal assistance, we encourage you to fill out ALARM’s GetHelp form on our website at www.ALARM.ORG.AU; or contact ALARM on (03) 9016 3248; or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. You may then select, or, if you wish, we will direct you to, one of our Allied Law Firms for an initial meeting and advice, at no cost to you. Thereafter, you can decide whether to proceed with a formal legal complaint. If you do wish to proceed, costs arrangements, if any, will need to be discussed, and agreed, with the firm.
 Health & Aged Care Lawyer, Principal, Catherine Henry Lawyers Pty Limited, Sydney; ALARM Volunteer Consultant.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author. The contents of this article are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. If you are in need of legal advice and/or assistance about aged care matters, please seek legal advice directly or via ALARM’s GET HELP form on its website: www.agedcarejustice.org.au.