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November 30th 2018

Care Home Abuse

Care home agrees damages settlement after allegations elderly dementia sufferer was ‘abandoned’ and developed pressure sores

Michelle Tebbutt

Michelle Tebbutt

Associate Solicitor, Clinical Negligence

Care home agrees damages settlement after allegations elderly dementia sufferer was ‘abandoned’ and developed pressure sores

A devastated daughter has told how her elderly mother was carried out of a care home in a semi-conscious state just a week after being admitted as she was ‘left abandoned’ by staff.

A devastated daughter has told how her elderly mother was carried out of a care home in a semi-conscious state just a week after being admitted as she was ‘left abandoned’ by staff.

Kathryn Bretton says her mother Christina, who had dementia, was ‘walking, talking and feeding herself’ when she was admitted to The Denby Care Home in Huddersfield.

She was taken in as a resident, despite the home not having specialist dementia care facilities and just nine days later was carried from the premises with her ‘head back and her eyes half open’ to be transferred to another facility operated by the same company.

As part of a legal case against home operators Meridian Healthcare Ltd, it was alleged Mrs Bretton, who was 76 at the time, then suffered from further negligent care at The Oakes Care Home, where the family say she was left slumped in a wheelchair.

After just over two weeks in the care of Meridian’s two homes, Mrs Bretton was rushed to hospital by ambulance after appearing virtually unconscious and unable to lift her head.

She was diagnosed with an infection having developed a sore on the bottom of her back and one on her heel which was classed as a Grade 4 – indicating that it was in need of immediate treatment due to the extent of tissue damage.

Mrs Bretton, of Wakefield, was also found to be severely dehydrated, with hospital staff concluding that she had not had sufficient fluids in the days prior to her admission.

Mrs Bretton remained in hospital for three weeks and required treatment with antibiotics after being re-hydrated via an intravenous drip. The Oakes care home meantime determined she could not return to their home and Mrs Bretton was then accepted as a resident in a nursing facility, operated by a different company.

She remained there, in a reduced state of consciousness and unable to speak to her family, as well as the staff at the care home, until she passed away in January of 2017 aged 77.

Daughter says it was ‘heartbreaking’ to witness mother’s rapid decline

“My mother was completely let down. She was just left abandoned and alone and it was heartbreaking to witness,” said her daughter Kathryn.

“It was just awful. My father had looked after her at home for a number of years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013, but he was 10 years older than her and it just became too much for him. I am a single mum who works full time so I did what I could to help but, with my sister living overseas, our only option was to look at care.

“When we looked around the Denby Care Home it was beautiful and the staff there really sold the home to us. It wasn’t a specialist dementia care home but they were fully aware of her diagnosis and we were assured that they could provide excellent care for my mum. They really did sell the place to us.

“Now I just feel that meeting was all about the money for them and getting another resident in the door, because as soon as my mum was in there it just seemed like she was completely abandoned.

“She seemed ok for the first couple of days, but after a few days we were stopped from going in because the entire place was in lockdown due to an illness. People were not being allowed in and we could only see mum through a door. She was all alone.

“There wasn’t anybody with her on each of the times we visited and she was just alone, left slumped in a chair with her head down. She had no communication or no entertainment.

“To see her being carried out after just over a week in the home was incredibly upsetting. She walked into the home and was talking and able to feed herself. In such a short time she had been taken from us.

“It is heart-breaking as, in her mind, she probably feels she was just put in a home and abandoned by her family. That is hard to live with, but it was never the case.”

Legal case highlighted breaches of duty of care and led to settlement

Mrs Bretton’s daughter says she made official complaints to the CQC and Safeguarding Teams, but was unimpressed with their investigations.

It was established and agreed eventually that the blister on her heel must have occurred whilst she was resident at The Denby Care Home, in Wakefield Road, Huddersfield.

The Oakes Care Home, Chesilton Avenue, Huddersfield, also admitted to the Safeguarding Team that they had not put fluid charts in place, despite a care plan highlighting that Mrs Bretton required prompting to eat and drink.

“The poor care provided to my mother upset and angered me, but the lack of answers and accountability afterwards made matters worse,” said Kathryn.

“The CQC went straight in but clearly didn’t ask the right questions and gave the home a good report. Then we had to challenge and appeal the initial findings of the Kirklees Safeguarding officials as they sided with the care home and suggested that the grade 4 pressure sore on mums heel had been caused by her rubbing her heel on the carpet during a 30 minute car journey when she was transferred from Denby to the Oakes care home.

“It was at that stage, where we didn’t feel we were getting any answers and mum was being let down by the system, that dad decided to instruct a solicitor. It seemed the only way of holding them properly to account.”

Solicitor Michelle Tebbutt, a specialist in handling claims relating to medical negligence at Hudgell Solicitors, says it was only right that Meridian Healthcare Limited admitted breaching its duty of care with regards to Mrs Bretton’s treatment, leading to a five-figure damages settlement being reached out of court.

She said: “This has been another sad example of a family being badly let down by a care provider after taking the difficult decision to put a loved one into a home.

“Mrs Bretton’s family had done all they could to love and care for her as she battled dementia, and her elderly husband had cared for her so well despite being in his eighties himself.

“For her health to decline so rapidly following her admission into care, and to develop sores to the extent she did, was completely unacceptable.

“We had serious concerns over the fact that Mrs Bretton was accepted as a resident at The Denby Care Home as it did not have listed experience in caring for people with dementia needs.

“Our investigations revealed that she was not assessed as being at a high risk of dehydration or nutritional loss, and staff failed to intervene when it became obvious she was not eating and drinking sufficient amounts.

“A responsible body of nursing staff would or should have also known and understood that such a change of environment presented a high risk of Mrs Bretton becoming unsettled and low in mood due to her dementia. This should have been factored into her care plan.

“She also had no sores when admitted, yet had advanced sores by the time she was in hospital.

“Sadly, following her time in facilities run by Meridian Healthcare Limited and having been placed in a specialist nursing home after leaving hospital, she remained in a reduced state of consciousness and was unable to communicate verbally to her family or staff.

“For her family, the day she went into care was the day they lost her as she was no longer the woman they knew and loved so much.

“This case serves as a clear example of how care home residents need dedicated, committed, stimulating and appropriate care, and although nothing can turn back the clock, we were pleased to secure admissions that the standard of care provided was not good enough.”

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