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Noleen Hausler outside the Royal Commission Photo: Angie Raphael, AAP

‘I had no idea that someone could possibly do that’: nurse recalls father’s mistreatment

A nurse who suspected her father was being mistreated in an aged care home caught a care worker roughly handling him a number of times, including smothering him with a cloth.

Aged care provider Japara failed to act when Noleen Hausler told them she suspected mistreatment and when confronted with CCTV evidence, worried if the incident would be leaked to the media. The provider eventually claimed Hausler broke the law and was “stalking” and “intimidating” carers.

Hausler told the Royal Commission’s first day in Perth that her father Clarence, who was diagnosed with dementia in 1991, started to go downhill at the Mitcham facility when Japara took over in 2014.

Initially, she noticed no changes in care quality, but she said over a few months staff turnover increased and care decreased.

She claimed incontinence care was changing and her “dad's skin integrity was compromised,” along with an unattended toe nail infection.

She said her complaints were seemingly falling on deaf ears, and said she couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being neglected.

“It was just a feeling I had.

“I decided a camera was the only way I would know what was happening in his room,” she said.

The commission was shown three edited excerpts of footage taken over a period from 31 August 2015 to 9 September, which showed two separate care workers roughly repositioning Hausler’s father. Hausler complained to management as her father was put at “risk of aspiration”.

On 9 September, Hausler visited her father and said she could tell something was not right. At that point, he was non-verbal but this day he had tears in his eyes and, when she viewed that day’s footage, she said she could see why.

The male care worker, Cory Lucas, was shown in the video forcefully feeding Hausler’s father, shoving the utensils into his mouth so hard that his head was pushed back into the pillow. Lucas grappled with Hausler and then forced a cloth over his mouth, which appeared to stop his breathing.

“[I felt] terrible, I had no idea that someone could possibly do that. I felt for dad that I didn’t protect him sufficiently,” Hausler said through tears.

Hausler went to police and when they confronted Japara, management were “horrified” to see this happening in their home, but also made a point of asking if this video would find its way to the media.

After the incident, Lucas was not allowed back to the facility, but Japara didn’t tell staff what had occurred, and colleagues blamed Hausler for Lucas’ dismissal.

Japara then took exception to Hausler’s continued surveillance of her father’s room, wrongly accusing her of breaking surveillance laws and of “stalking” and attempting to cause staff “apprehension or fear”.

Lucas was eventually arrested and on 6 June 2016 was given a 6-month sentence with one-month imprisonment.

This weeks' hearing will look into person-centred care and end-of-life care, which of the 4560 submissions to the royal commission, made up 37 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

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