Hidden dementia deaths in aged care facilities
Melbourne researchers this week uncovered 28 deaths in Australian nursing homes where people with dementia have become confused, argued with each other, and led to the death of one person.
While some people would label these deaths as murder or homicides, Professor Joseph Ibrahim from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Monash University believes these cases have no intent behind them.
"It's typically two people with dementia getting involved in an argument or concerned about one invading another person's space.
"You have one person [who] pushes the other. The other person falls, breaks their hip or hits their head, and because they are in their eighties and frail, they don't bounce back.
"They end up dying."
The study examined coroners' files between 2000 and 2013 to find the 28 deaths (15 women 13 men) and found the instigators of the aggression mostly suffered from a mental disorder. Only two of the 28 deaths resulted in criminal charges and, in both cases, the accused died before the case got to court. In the other cases, the police found pursuing a prosecution was not in the public interest, or the person was not fit to be interviewed.
"[While] 28 deaths nationally over a 14-year period sounds quite small … it is just really the tip of the iceberg of other incidents that occur on a daily basis and either don't get reported or don't result in a death," said Monash University researcher Briony Murphy.
Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week made a personal investment of $100 million to fight Alzheimer's. Mr Gates said he was "optimistic" that well-funded and focused innovation could lead to treatments being found in the near future.
Do you think the Government needs to do more to make aged care facilities safer for dementia patients?
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