Dementia patients need better care, daughter tells Royal Commission

'I felt like I fought them for my Mum and they beat me'

Aged Care Royal Commission
Avril Walton (left) died in May this year. Her daughter Jen will give evidence at the Royal Commission to Aged Care quality.

Avril Walton (left) died in May this year. Her daughter Jen will give evidence at the Royal Commission to Aged Care quality.

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A Canberra woman has told of her battle to get proper care for her mother in an ACT aged care facility.

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When Avril Walton experienced six falls in nine months, her time in hospital often left her distressed and agitated, the chaotic environment of the emergency department exacerbating her dementia.

Mrs Walton died earlier this year aged 84, and her daughter Jen Walton recounted her experiences to the aged care royal commission on Tuesday, calling for people with dementia to have better access to treatment and rehabilitation in the aged care and health systems.

Hospitals aren't equipped to treat people with dementia who also have other health issues, Ms Walton said, detailing the way decisions were made about her mother's treatment between the residential facility and the public and private health systems.

Ms Walton said many of the times her mother was admitted to emergency were confronting, as the chaotic environment was disruptive for her mother, whose dementia made unfamiliar settings more distressing.

"It's just the environment is just not set up for dealing with people with dementia that have other illness or injury," Ms Walton said.

Jen Walton gives evidence at the Royal Commission to Aged Care quality in Canberra. Picture: Karleen Minney

Jen Walton gives evidence at the Royal Commission to Aged Care quality in Canberra. Picture: Karleen Minney

"Mum would get upset at what was going on around her and, you know, was constantly saying to me 'I want to leave' and 'how do we get out of here?'"

Ms Walton believed many of her mother's trips to hospital were unnecessary, and that sometimes decisions were made by medical professionals who were unfamiliar with dementia and interpreted her distress at being treated by a stranger as evidence of physical pain.

"Having dementia should not mean that the health and aged care systems treat people with any less respect or fail to provide the necessary care to ensure continued wellbeing," Ms Walton said in her statement.

"At times that was not our experience. Mum was subjected to unnecessary distress through inappropriate hospital transfers and was denied the opportunity to receive adequate rehabilitation to enhance her quality of life.

"I consider myself reasonable literate regarding the Australian health and aged care systems yet, on occasion I felt like I fought them for my Mum and they beat me."

Avril Walton died in May this year. Picture: Supplied

Avril Walton died in May this year. Picture: Supplied

The Walton family's experiences weren't all negative. After entering residential care, Mrs Walton was able to keep seeing her GP, something that isn't possible for many people who enter aged care. Ms Walton said her mother's GP went above and beyond for her patient, describing the thoughtful ways the doctor treated her mother.

The commission also heard from a Sydney paramedic Tess Oxley, who said more than half the calls made from aged care facilities to ambulances were unnecessary or could be avoided. Ms Oxley said that while she would like to say residential facilities called ambulances out of concern for patient welfare, she felt it was managing the risk of litigation.

"They know if they've booked an ambulance and they've said that patient needs to go to hospital there's no risk to the facility if anyone deteriorates."

Ms Oxley said the information paramedics receive from residential facilities about patients when they are called out differs from facility to facility.

At "great" facilities paramedics receive the information they need.

"There are others where you will just get a lot of I'm not sures, I don't know and that's not - that's not uncommon to get that," Ms Oxley said.

On Wednesday the commission heard from facility managers, including a representative of Clare Holland House.

The story Dementia patients need better care, daughter tells Royal Commission first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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