A former Australian journalist broke down in tears as she pleaded with families to install surveillance cameras in their relatives’ rooms in aged care homes, after claiming her own mother was assaulted by staff members and left unattended in agony.
Speaking in a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Darwin on Thursday, former ABC, Channel 9 and Channel 10 journalist Lisa Backhouse struggled to speak through her tears as she recalled happier times with her “fiercely independent” mum Christine Weightman, before reading out a damning statement accusing staff members of assaulting her.
Backhouse said she installed a camera in her mother’s room after allegedly discovering she had been hit twice by a staff member.
“If you have elderly, vulnerable residents in an aged care centre today, go out and get yourself a surveillance camera… if the facility tells you not to, do it anyway,” she told reporters after appearing at the commission, 7 News reports.
“I can watch my mum on my phone from anywhere at any time of day and I can be involved in her care doing that. Short of moving in and sleeping by her bedside, I don’t know what else to do.”
Christine was suffering from dementia while living in the aged care home in Brisbane and Backhouse claimed in the hearing that another incident saw her mum left on the ground in agony for an unknown amount of time. She claimed her leg was found to be broken in two places.
Backhouse pressed an assault charge against a carer in the home after her mother was allegedly hit, and she claimed in the hearing: “I was told my mum had been hit with intent and force, twice on her upper leg… I simply cannot describe the feeling of devastation and powerlessness that this has delivered.”
It’s then that she made moves to install the surveillance camera, insisting in the hearing that it was “not to spy, but to act as a deterrent”.
After installing it, she claimed that her mother was left unattended for several hours with no bed covers – after they fell off – on a very cold night.
“We need a strong policeman on the beat, a regulator must be given punitive powers in order to be able to fine and penalise nursing homes that fail in their duty of care,” she reportedly added after the hearing.
“When we look back in years to come, much like the orphanages of yesteryear, this will be our country’s greatest shame.”