My number one goal is to get the fuck out of the nursing home.”
Lisa Corcoran is sworn in to give evidence to the royal commission in the usual fashion. Council assisting Bergin then begins the day with the usual formalities. The unusual part is that Corcoran is giving her evidence through her speech pathologist and therapist, Liz Chard. Corcoran is seated in her wheelchair, paralysed, with speech difficulties and Chard is translating for the court.
You can make out the odd word here and there, but for the most part, the court waits while she speaks and Chard takes notes, ready to relay the message.
“Ms Corcoran, what are your goals for the future?” Bergin asks.
“My number one goal is to get the fuck out of the nursing home,” Corcoran replies, matter-of-factly through Chard, to some laughter.
“My number two goal is to hug my children. I don’t need to tell you this, you know. My number three goal is to communicate better.”
Corcoran, 43, has good reason to be frustrated as she is one of the 6048 people aged under 65 living in permanent aged care.
She describes her six-year stay in aged care as a “nightmare” and says: “Up until recently, every day I felt like killing myself. I can’t move, so I can’t do this – I would have if I could.”
She says she’s had to fight at times to get her message across to staff at the facility, exemplified by her struggle to get more than one shower a week.
“I have an NDIA plan which initially only gave me 60 hours of therapy and not much more, but it’s been reviewed and they’ve fixed it up,” she says.
“But before that, it was a nightmare. My hygiene, I had to fight for a shower every second day.
“I called a meeting with the manager because I wanted to be washed more than once a week,” she says.
As a vegetarian, she describes the food as “crap” and talks about struggling to socialise with other residents as they often pass away, so she doesn’t like to make friends.
Recalling a recent spate of six deaths over two weeks at her home, she tells of the emotional hardship of dealing regularly with death.
“I just can’t get it out of my head. I heard about these people dying as the nurses told me. I saw one body being moved. I saw his head in a red bag. This was at 12 noon when everyone was eating lunch.”
More concerning was the issue of safety. In her statement, Corcoran said that she had been left outside in the sun for hours on one occasion. She has also been pinched and punched by staff and told the commission she had been sexually assaulted.
Corcoran is currently waiting to move to a specialist disability facility and feels lucky that she has “good people” around her.
When asked why it was important for her to give evidence, she replies that it is about fighting for respect for people with disability.
“We all crave respect,” she says. “I feel like I’ve lost that respect.
“I could be here with nothing on and I wouldn’t feel any different.”
The royal commission is in Melbourne today, tomorrow and Friday.Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]