Marie is a 74-year-old Forgotten Australian. Throughout her childhood, Marie was placed in multiple 'care' homes and institutions where she endured abuse. After suffering a stroke in 2018, Marie was discharged from the hospital to an aged care facility to provide the necessary care while she was in recovery. This facility was a locked complex that catered towards patients with high care needs, such as Dementia and while this was required during Marie’s recovery, she was still treated as a high care patient after recuperating which was not only unnecessary but also unwelcome by Marie herself.
Marie was planning to leave the care facility after she had recovered to move in with a friend and had discussed this plan with her daughter and staff in advance. However, once she was preparing to move out, the staff would not allow her to leave and threatened to call the police. This misuse of power was triggering for Marie even without the threat of police as it reminded her of the abuse she suffered during her childhood. Disturbingly, Marie was told on multiple occasions by staff that she would never be allowed to leave the facility.
Marie faced an array of difficulties while in care at this facility, many of which were reminders and triggers from her time in childhood 'care'. The menu at the facility was on a repeated weekly roster and served many of the same meals that Marie was forced to eat during her time in institutionalised 'care' as a child. This forced Marie to go hungry as she could not eat these meals due to the re-traumatising effect it had on her as well as often finding them unsanitary. She was then blamed by the aggravated staff for losing weight and not eating what was served to her despite it frequently having strands of hair in it.
Marie’s mail was consistently opened before she received it and was only passed on to her after extended periods and she was not allowed to keep her cigarettes with her at any time. The staff did not provide an apparent reason for this as Marie does not suffer from Dementia or any other cognitive disabilities. Needing to ask permission to access and use her property was yet another parallel that Marie saw between her care homes as a child and this facility, and she found the lack of authority and control over her own life and decisions distressing. On one occasion, Marie was accused of smoking in her room, which was a false claim, and was ignored when trying to explain the situation to staff members.
From these events, Marie was growing resentful due to the disrespect and felt like she was labelled a troublemaker within the facility. The centre also applied to gain guardianship over Marie despite her family still actively supporting her. Although this application was rejected by the Tribunal, this took a huge emotional toll on Marie.
Other hardships Marie faced within this facility include being billed for medication that she was not prescribed which, when brought to the attention of staff, was a situation that was belittled and minimised and Marie was offered no apology. Reporting this behaviour was incredibly difficult as there was no clear structure in place to report problems or resolve issues so, even when action was promised, there was no clear procedures to be enforced and complaints often went in circles because of this. All these situations, in combination with feeling powerless, belittled, and untrustworthy, were extremely re-traumatising for Marie and she was forced to deal with the repercussions of this behaviour and the emotional turmoil of facing many of her triggers without the comfort of her own home and family support.
In addition to these troubles, Marie also faced barriers within the aged care sector when trying to get approval to leave the care home. This was because she was moving from high care to low care, the opposite of what this system usually encounters. Marie was told she could not receive a new Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment while she was in care at this facility but was unable to obtain home care without this. The ACAT assessment was also needed to provide evidence to the Housing Department that she had adequate support to live independently when applying for housing.
Marie has since left the facility and was able to temporarily move in with her daughter, followed by moving in with a close friend after but is currently technically homeless. Physically and cognitively, Marie can live independently in her own home, only needing home assistance with more challenging physical tasks such as cleaning and shopping.
This story was part of the submission to the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety. The name has been changed for the individuals' privacy.