Hidden dementia deaths in aged care facilities

Melbourne researchers this week uncovered 28 deaths in Australian nursing homes.

Hidden dementia deaths in nursing homes

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th Nov 2017
    So what are you going to do? Put them in jail? They are in jail already. Obviously aggressive patients need to be monitored more carefully however as dementia is degenerative one day they may be happy and the next day depression and aggression set in. So sad.
    14th Nov 2017
    My late father was one such aggressor. In his case, the right medication helped to some extent.
    14th Nov 2017
    Its one of those sad "facts of life". Living in an institution is not the way any of us want to finish our existence, but what is the alternative? We hand the responsibility over to paid carers and they do their very best to ensure that our loved ones final years are as comfortable as is reasonable to expect. We cannot ask for more than that.
    14th Nov 2017
    What is the alternative? Euthanasia...
    Mrs Hedgehog
    14th Nov 2017
    Increase the staff to patient ratio for care both day and night and make it compulsory. Most nursing homes try to do everything on the cheap, maximum profit, minimum care. Do NOT tell the nursing home when an inspection is going to be made as they up the care, the food quality and the entertainment/activities for that time and then reduce it all again after the inspectors have gone. The legal system is so slack they know a patient who makes a complaint will be dead before charges go to court.
    14th Nov 2017
    Yes, Mrs Hedgehog, you're right, reverse all the funding cuts that have impaired care quality for the past few years and let the elderly spend the last part of their lives in comfort.
    ray @ Bondi
    14th Nov 2017
    The sad truth is that NO nursing home will spend a cent more than they are forced to and forced is the right word, out governments, have turned their backs on this and should hang their head in shame but we all know they won't, just blame something or somebody else, it is common knowledge but governments are too scared to force the issue, they (the government) might just have to take few dollars out of their trough to fix the issue, yep will never happen.
    15th Nov 2017
    Agree 100%

    14th Nov 2017
    Nursing homes are a living hell. I was in three of them briefly last year, aged 55, and would rather go into palliative care (controlledly ceasing my haemodialysis) than be forced back into one.
    14th Nov 2017
    Why isn't MICK here blaming Mr Turnbull?
    14th Nov 2017
    He forgot?
    14th Nov 2017
    It is one of the reasons my wife and her sisters kept their mother with them until such time until she past over. They closed their reasonably profitable business to look after her instead
    They closed the doors and walked away. Bought a motorhome each and travelled around Australia with her.
    ray @ Bondi
    14th Nov 2017
    how wonderful and compassionate.
    14th Nov 2017
    My dear mother who had dementia died as a result of a fall. She was the a nursing home but nothing is perfect. They can get out of bed during the night either at home or in care and short of having someone in their room 24-7 this is impossible to control unfortunately.
    16th Dec 2017
    There is some very sad dementia cases. In a Nursing Home in Adelaide there was an elderly lady with dementia who was so violent that she was in a large room on her own with a locked screen door. One person could not go in and see her or she would attack him/her. 2 or more staff always went in to give her meals and attend to her other meals. Had it not been for her violence her family would have continued to care for her. The only time she was relaxed was when she was asleep - only at night.