'Mum should have been alive today'

Elderly woman who died riddled with faeces-infected sores 'should still be alive'


Aged Care Royal Commission
Debra Barnes says her mother Muriel should not have died after her stay at an aged care home.

Debra Barnes says her mother Muriel should not have died after her stay at an aged care home.

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Aged care royal commission has heard distressing details about the death of Muriel Barnes.

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AN ELDERLY woman who died riddled with faeces-infected pressure sores and an entirely treatable infection should still be alive, her grieving children say.

The aged care royal commission has heard distressing details about the death of a beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother exactly one year ago.

On August 9, 2018, 90-year-old Muriel Barnes died in hospital a week after being admitted in a critical and unresponsive state.

When doctors examined the type 2 diabetic, they found pressure sores on her buttocks and her leg infected with faecal matter.

She had a serious urinary tract infection, and her blood sugar levels were off the scale - so high that the hospital's metre could not read it.

Daughter Debra Barnes spent the anniversary of her mum's death telling the commission how she felt powerless, despite repeated attempts to improve the care her mum received at the home which cannot be named.

Outside the hearing, Ms Barnes and her brothers Queensland Police Union secretary Mick Barnes and Graham Barnes said their mother's death could have been prevented with proper care.

"We trust these facilities ... with the lives and care of our loved ones," Mick Barnes told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

Mum should have been alive today. Her four children and the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren should still be enjoying her company.

Earlier, the royal commission was told Mrs Barnes was put in the home's high-care unit in early 2016 after breaking a hip and suffering cognitive decline.

Ms Barnes spent time with her mother almost every day but it soon became apparent she wasn't receiving an appropriate standard of care.

She recounted numerous distressing incidents, including staff failing to update her mother's care plan and take her to appointments.

On one particularly hot summer's day, she arrived to find her mum, residents and staff visibly heat-stressed inside the under-cooled home.

Ms Barnes was determined to be an "annoying, brilliant advocate" but the home failed to respond to 75 per cent of the 50 to 60 concerns she raised.

In May last year, staff called to say her mother needed to go to the hospital, where she was found to have a urinary tract infection and high blood sugar levels.

She was treated and returned to the home with new guidelines to keep her hydrated to ward off future infections.

But Ms Barnes said she frequently found her mother with no water by her bed, and if there was water it was often out of reach.

When she challenged the home's clinical nurse educator about why no-one had done a two-day fluid intake audit, she was told they did not provide acute care and it was up to her mother as to what she did or did not drink.

"I simply could not understand how that would not be a part of the care that they would offer mum," the commission was told.

By the middle of last year, Ms Barnes said she had very serious concerns about the home.

Things took a turn for the worse on August 2, when her sister went to visit and found their mother unresponsive.

She was rushed to hospital where she died a week later, leaving Ms Barnes with "an overwhelming and absolutely certain feeling that she didn't get the care that she should have received".

In September last year, Ms Barnes lodged a complaint with the federal Aged Care Complaints Commission - now the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

By January this year, after receiving no updates she was told her emails may have been "lost in the system".

Then in April, the commission advised the case would cease because the home had addressed the issues to its satisfaction.

"I do not understand how the complaint could have been resolved without there being an acknowledgement of what actually happened to mum and who was accountable for it," she told the hearing.

Australian Associated Press

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