“Mom was in pain, obviously, putting her hands up to protect herself,” said heartbroken son Ed Robins.
Robins had noticed bruising and skin tears on his 92-year-old mother’s body. Fearing the worst, the conscientious son concealed a camera in his mother’s room at Morrison Lodge nursing home in Perth, Australia. Robins thought, potentially, that his mother, Jean, was being handled inappropriately by the staff.
His worst fears were confirmed. The distressing footage depicted his frail mom, who suffers from dementia and had broken her leg in the preceding weeks, being roughly spoken to, pinned down, and harshly handled by two care workers.
The footage was captured over the course of three weeks and later contributed toward ABC’s Four Corners investigative documentary. The program cast a compassionate eye over the crisis in caring for Australia’s ageing community.
Robins explained that his mother would sometimes wake up confused, forgetting that she had dementia, and would try to get out of bed. With a broken leg, of course she could not walk. In Robins’s footage, care workers respond to Jean’s distress by forcefully pushing the elderly woman against her mattress, dropping her broken leg onto the metal railings of her bed, and even throwing a stuffed teddy bear into her face.
After one rough move, Jean cries out, “Don’t pull my hair!” She flails an arm, attempting to move the offending care worker away from her bedside, but the carer laughs in response. At one stage, Robins regaled, his mother was left lying alone on the floor, calling for assistance, for 20 minutes.
Horrifying. And staff claim they are the 'victims' after losing their jobs
“Mom was in pain,” Robins told ABC.
Robins showed his hidden-camera footage to senior staff at Morrison Lodge, who promptly called Perth police. Glenda Lua, 40, and Luz Ando Freeman, 63, were each charged with 12 counts of assault against Jean Robins between September and October of 2016. Both women lost their jobs as a result.
— 4corners (@4corners) September 24, 2018
However, despite the shocking nature of Robins’s hidden-camera evidence, Magistrate Gregory Smith acquitted the carers of all charges in early 2019.
He concluded that the carers were “run off their feet.” Jean Robins, he surmised, was “often violent and abusive towards staff.” Magistrate Smith then likened dealing with a difficult elderly patient to dealing with a difficult child, and sanctioned force in order to get the job done.
“If that child is compliant, then some force is needed, but not much,” the magistrate said. “If the child is resisting,” he continued, “then more force is needed. If the child is throwing a complete tantrum, then obviously extra force is needed to achieve what has to be achieved.”
He did allow that the carers could, and maybe should, have been a little gentler. However, the magistrate concluded that their behavior was not criminal enough to warrant a conviction. Lua was served with $17,000 in costs; Freeman, $20,759.
The care workers, however, showed little remorse for their actions, claiming that they themselves were the victims of the whole ordeal. “They think that we are a bad person, but we are the victims here,” Lua said outside the courtroom, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “Terminating us at work, that’s not fair, because we work hard, we care for all the people.”
Jean Robins still lives at Morrison Lodge nursing home. Her son, however, decided not to remove the hidden camera.
In response to the investigation, Australian Aged Care Quality Agency suspended government funding for new residents at Morrison Lodge for three months. However, the financial reprimand was short-lived. According to ABC, the care home’s 100 percent accreditation rating was quickly restored.
From that moment on, any family members checking the agency’s website for information on potential care homes for their own beloved relatives would be none the wiser. “I don’t think many Australians know what goes on,” Robins asserted.
“There should be cameras in every room.”