Home | News | Veteran describes being medicated into a ‘big sleep’: Royal Commission Melbourne

Veteran describes being medicated into a ‘big sleep’: Royal Commission Melbourne

On the one-year anniversary of the announcement of the aged care royal commission we heard from veteran Brian Lynch, 73, who has been in aged care for a decade. Lynch suffers from a number of service-related physical injuries, as well as PTSD, depression, anxiety and bipolar, and told the commission of his years of being overmedicated, which he describes as “a big sleep”.

He started his testimony with the definition of a veteran, as described by the War Veterans Network of Australia.

“A veteran whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserve is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank cheque made payable to Australia for an amount of up to and including his or her life.”

Lynch served in the Australian Army from 1966 to 1980 including two tours of Vietnam and as a result developed PTSD. Around 2010 Lynch “lost the plot” and was placed in regional residential aged care facility in Albury Wodonga, which started a cycle of overmedication leading to his complete memory loss.

“I have no real memory of my time at the regional facility,” he wrote in his statement to the commission.

“Because I have no memory of my time at the regional facility I cannot recall what medication I was prescribed, but I have been told by a psychiatrist that I was on massive doses of Largactil, Rivotril, and Tricyclic antidepressants. The medications I have documentary proof of being prescribed are Largactil, Rivotril, Fluoxetine, Oxazepam, Propranolol, and Carbamazepine.”

A move to Adelaide and other facilities followed – which he does not remember – and it wasn’t until he was moved to RSL Care SA and a war veterans’ home that Lynch was given the special care and attention someone with his complex condition required.

“I do not remember the first stages of my medical history at RSL Villas. Sometime during that first nine months, I started to get my memory back. The wellbeing officer at RSL Villas was very good to me,” he wrote.

“Someone helped me get in touch with the services available at Ward 17 of the Repatriation General Hospital (the Repat), including the psychologist and the psychiatrist. She was very dedicated to the people at the facility. It wasn’t her responsibility to do this for me. She went above her job to make it happen.

“Because I got in touch with the Repat, I was able to see a psychologist and other services that are available. After my first admission at the Repat, I was able to get some memory back.”

With the help of the facility and new psychiatrists, Lynch was able to reduce his medications and he now feels safe and well at the RSL with his “family”.

“I owe my life to my psychiatrist. I am able to give evidence to this royal commission on account of her. She is the one that kept me going and is going to protect my future,” Lynch wrote.

Lynch was asked to finish his testimony to the commission the way he started, by reading from his statement.

He said he was proud of the service he gave his country and he knows that his needs are complex. He paraphrased Prime Minister Billy Hughes who made a promise to soldiers returning from the great war. Hughes said that the government would look after the veterans “both medically and financially, in order that they could reassimilate into society,” Lynch said.

“We, the modern veterans, do not want anything other than the pledge of Billy Hughes to be honoured. I have been in a residential aged care facility for nearly 10 years. I am not quite sure that the regional facility knew what to do with me at the time. I was so much younger than the other residents. Signed, Brian Lynch,” he read.

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One comment

  1. Marilyn Lawson-James

    Kudos to the true meaning of a wellfare officer at RSL villas and hats off to you Sir for sharing your journey.