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Aged care worker recounts murder: royal commission

Two sisters took the stand at the aged care royal commission on Wednesday and told the room that they had held their sobbing mother’s hand as she had her teeth extracted due to neglect by an aged care facility.

The sisters, named DL and DM to protect their identity, told the royal commission of the “gum erosion and rotting teeth” their mother had suffered as a result of poor oral care, which left the dentist “disgusted”.

Only six months before, DL had taken her mother to the dentist with no problems.

“According to the dentist, the problem was simple. The carers at Brian King Gardens were not taking her denture plate out each night. They were also not cleaning it,” DL’s statement to the commission said.

The cost of the teeth extraction and new plates left the sisters over $1400 out of pocket.

The commission also heard testimony from an aged care worker suffering from PTSD, the result of the murder of a resident at her facility.

Kathryn Nobes, who read her statement to the commission, said her condition was aggravated as her facility made cooperating with the police difficult.

Her statement also gave the commission an insight into the tough conditions aged care workers can face when caring for people with dementia.

“In an instant, he let go of the rail, made fists of his hands and plunged them into the faeces,” Nobes said.

"He quickly turned towards me and punched me in the breasts. I spun around and he continued to punch me in the arm and in the back. I ended up with his faeces all over my shirt."

She also told the commission of incidents of racial attacks on workers, escape attempts and inappropriate sexual behaviour by residents.

Her testimony highlighted the scant training and support offered to aged care workers. She painted a picture of an industry understaffed and under pressure. Sometimes she had to look after 18 residents alone.

“Some days were just chaotic. I had to constantly think of how to approach tasks when there were three or four incidents happening at the same time.

“I had to ask myself, 'Which one do I do first? And which one is going to cause me the most damage?' Simple tasks take much longer with residents with dementia, and to rush them can trigger aggressive behaviours,” Nobes said.

“I was repeatedly assaulted by residents. I have received blows, kicks, headbutts, twisting of the skin on my arms, grabbing and squeezing of my hands and arms, attacks with faeces, verbal abuse and threats.

“I documented these assaults on the work computer. I have not noticed any real changes in the workplace.”

Nobes also recalled the violent incident between two residents that led her to come forward.

“I looked down the corridor and saw the resident walking towards us,” she said.

“The resident was holding a walking stick in his right hand, like it was a club … I noticed that the resident had blood on his knees and some blood on his hands. He had some indent on his knees too. I think I also saw blood on his face around his mouth.”

This was dismissed as a nose bleed by staff until, a short while later, the discovery was made.

“[Another staff member] came running up to us and said words to the effect, 'While I was at break, there has been a murder. The resident has murdered another resident'.”

Nobes said the resident had a history of violent behaviour.

She still works at the facility and has come forward as she fears “this type of incident will be repeated”.

“I am making this statement to the royal commission as I feel that the work conditions at the facility are having a serious impact on quality of care and the safety of not only the residents but also the staff,” she said.

“In my opinion, staff working with dementia residents need more training,” she said.

“There is insufficient staffing at the facility.”

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