Family accuses care facility of unauthorised chemical restraint: ‘Dad was turning into a zombie’

The sanctity of aged care facilities is one of the pillars of a compassionate society, where the elderly are meant to spend their twilight years in comfort and dignity.

However, a disturbing incident at a Tasmanian government-run aged care facility has cast a shadow over the care being provided to our most vulnerable citizens.

The family of Maurice Long has come forward with harrowing allegations of chemical restraint without consent, raising serious concerns about the practices in aged care institutions and the potential risks faced by residents.


Maurice Long, an 86-year-old man who lived independently for two decades, entered the Beaconsfield District Health Service in Tasmania's north-east, seeking full-time care.

Tragically, within approximately two months of his admission, he passed away.

His son, Leigh Long, is now grappling with the belief that his father's life was 'shortened' due to the substandard care he received, which he alleges included the unauthorised use of antipsychotic medication.


1720400945967.png
Allegations of chemical restraint and rough handling in Tasmanian aged care facilities emerged, with one family questioning the impact on their relative's life span. Credit: Shutterstock


‘had to lose Dad due to maybe a serious blunder or mistake, so we've paid the ultimate price as a family,’ he said.

‘Every day that goes by, I think about my dad. I dream about him every night. I just can't stop reliving the care and the treatment he got.’

‘I miss him so much.’

Leigh witnessed Maurice's ability to walk, talk, and manage his care deteriorate alarmingly fast.


‘There was something wrong with Dad. He was going downhill, Dad was turning into a zombie,’ Leigh said.

‘He could hardly walk, he couldn't talk.’

Leigh, who held enduring guardianship and was responsible for making medical decisions on his father's behalf, claimed that the facility administered risperidone, an antipsychotic medication, without his consent.

‘We were up there visiting Dad, and it was quarter to five, and the nurse said, “We've got to give your dad his five o'clock tablet before he goes to tea.”’ he said.

‘And I said, “he doesn't have a five o'clock tablet”, and she said, “Oh no, he has a five o'clock tablet. I'll check on it.”’

‘She came back and said, 'We're sedating him.’


Leigh mentioned that he had discovered the tablets were first administered to his dad after one of his initial nights at the facility when the buzzer in his room had been pressed multiple times.

He was unsure if his dad had been pressing the buzzer button, getting out of bed, and standing on a mat next to it, which would activate the buzzer.

‘They started sedating Dad with medication due to his undiagnosed dementia for pushing a buzzer 19 times in an hour,’ Leigh explained.

He said he had attempted to halt the medication being given to his father by reaching out to a local GP, Maurice's cardiologist, and even contacting a solicitor.

The ABC obtained a letter from the cardiologist requesting that the medication be discontinued.

‘Mr Maurice Long has been a patient of mine of over ten years,’ it said.

‘This 86-year-old gentleman's family are concerned about the use of risperidone for him and the side effects on his health. Therefore, I would request that the risperidone be ceased.’


The cardiologist subsequently advised Maurice to consult a doctor at another health facility for a conclusive diagnosis and treatment plan.

Leigh stated that the facility disregarded his requests and neglected the cardiologist's directive to stop the medication.

‘It was a battle, and I was never able to stop it,’ he said.

‘It was shocking, it was to the point where Dad was gone well before he died because this medication changed him so much.’

The family also discovered bruising on Maurice's body, including around his neck and arms.

Leigh sought answers regarding his father's care at the Beaconsfield facility and the standards maintained there.


He questioned why the facility had begun sedating his father without consent.

The family lodged complaints with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and Tasmania's Health Department.

Although Leigh Long had not yet received an official response from the Department of Health, he had been exchanging emails with departmental staff, some of whom had apologised.

‘I'm so sorry for the loss of your father and for the awful experience he and your family experienced at the Beaconsfield Hospital.’ one of the staff said.

‘I’m very sorry that this has occurred and for the way that your concerns were managed by the service.’ another said.


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The family of Maurice Long raised concerns about medication and bruising. Credit: Shutterstock


Tasmania's Health Department informed the ABC that it thoughtfully considers all concerns and complaints about the care provided in its health system and is actively reviewing the matter.

‘Communication is continuing between the department and family members about the complaint.’ they stated.

‘We empathise with anyone whose experience in our health system falls short of the standards we expect, but it is not appropriate for us to comment further on individual circumstances for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.’


During the last fiscal year, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received 150 complaints regarding residential care in Tasmania.

Robbie Moore from the Health and Community Services Union highlighted significant issues in the aged care sector, particularly understaffing, which hinders timely care delivery to residents.

Moore emphasised delays in essential activities like using the restroom and getting out of bed, describing these challenges as unacceptable for older people in nursing homes.

‘[Residents] are delayed in going to the toilet. They're delayed in when they get out of bed,’ he said.

‘We keep hearing awful stories that no one else in the community would accept, so why do we accept it for older people just because they're in a nursing home?’

‘We need to see the staffing levels so that people can have a decent life.’


Since the beginning of the year, the national aged care regulator has identified six non-compliant facilities in Tasmania.

Among these, Lyell House at the West Coast District Hospital, operated by the state government, failed to meet six out of eight standards.

Issues highlighted by the regulator include concerns with chemical restraint, where medication was administered to a resident for over five weeks without consent.

Significant staffing challenges were also noted, with a heavy reliance on overtime and agency staff.

Mr. Moore emphasised the importance of holding senior government officials accountable for these issues.

‘There's no way that it is acceptable that in public-run institutions in Tasmania, we shouldn't be meeting the national guidelines. That's a very reasonable expectation from Tasmanians.’ he said.


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Tasmania's health department actively reviewed complaints and maintained ongoing communication with the family. Credit: Shutterstock


Brigid Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Council on the Aging Tasmania, emphasised that these allegations within aged care point to larger systemic issues within the sector.

‘We trust that when we need to make that decision for an older family member to receive the care that they need in a care facility, that they're going to get that care and that they're going to be treated with respect,’ she explained.

‘So, any allegations that people were treated inappropriately, or an instance of neglect or abuse, we would be very concerned about.’

‘It actually really disgusts me because I think that every human being is worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of their age.’

Displeased with the care at Beaconsfield, Leigh relocated his father to another aged care facility.

According to Leigh, Maurice was unable to walk, talk, or attend to his own toileting needs at that time.


‘I had a duty of care to Dad to remove him from that facility, from that danger, because all my life he looked after me. I had to do something in return.’ he said.

‘I was hoping things would come back to, “Hey, Dad's good now, we've fixed it.”’

‘Sadly, he died. The damage was done.’

‘With the facility up there … and the medication, the damage was already in place.’

In response to the growing concerns, Tasmania's Department of Health has initiated a voluntary statewide audit of its facilities that offer residential aged care services.


‘These audits include consideration of a range of matters, including the use of restrictive practice,’ a spokesperson stated.

‘In relation to staffing, all of the Department's district hospitals — including the six facilities that provide residential aged care services — have a safe staffing model which identifies the appropriate safe staffing level for each of the facilities.’

‘A number of strategies are used to support this model, including recruitment, increases to working hours where appropriate, and redeployment from other services or sites as required.’

‘This whole-of-system collaboration is very common across the health system to ensure the needs of Tasmanians are met.’
Key Takeaways

  • Allegations have surfaced of chemical restraint without consent and rough handling in Tasmanian aged care facilities, with one family believing their relative's life was shortened by the care received.
  • The family of Maurice Long, who died shortly after entering a government-run aged care facility, raised concerns about the administration of antipsychotic medication without consent and found bruising on his body.
  • Tasmania's health department is actively reviewing the complaints, with ongoing communication with the family, and has stated that it takes the care provided across the health system very seriously.
  • Tasmania's Department of Health undertook a voluntary statewide audit of facilities offering residential aged care services, in addition to regular audits by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
Have you or your loved ones encountered issues with care or the use of chemical restraints? How can we improve the aged care system to prevent such incidents? Feel free to share your insights in the comments below.
 
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Yes my aunt who had alzheimers was put on serenace for agitation and it made her severely worse. I spoke to the relavent doctor who wouldn't listen to me to take her off it and put her on respiradone or zyprexa and try her on that to relieve her agitation after a fall. I had to fight, with our GP's help, who got her off the serenace and she was put on respiradone and was back to her normal loving self albeit with the dementia. I think there needs to be a wide spread look at what is happening in nursing homes with the sedation of clients. Is it for the staff's sake or the patient's. I honesty feel in my aunt's case it was for the staff's sake because their ratio was not up to the standard required. I dread to think what is going to happen to me, if I end up in a nursing home, as I have no advocate to stand up for me. It is very scary as we age.
 
It happened to my mother in a Brisbane facility. It almost cost her life. On another occasion she was hit by an employee. When we raised the matter we were told to wait until the following morning when we were met by two strapping policemen, one especially mentioned that his grandmother was from Spain (meaning what?). They were there to stonewall us.
As for ‘accreditation……
 
It’s easier to care for someone when they show no resistance or thinking for themselves. I’ve seen first hand the soul destroying and/or deadly effects from indiscriminate administration of unnecessary and harmful medications.

It’s not limited to aged “care”. It happens in prisons too. There may be other government institutions as well. I’m only speaking from what I’ve seen.
 
This breaks my heart. The family couldn’t have done more to try to help him but were totally ignored. At 84 I am doing everything I can to keep healthy enough to stay in my home.
They should be sued. Money talks
 
I hope that neither my husband or myself ever have to go into a nursing home. They sound like horrible places to end up in. I must check up on an elderly friend who has recently entered such a facility & make sure that she’s okay.
 
My father's second wife had dementia and had to go in care. The first care facility, she was pushed over by another resident so my dad was told and broke her hip. After surgery she was placed in a wheelchair and never walked again as no physio was offered. Dad found another care facility for her. We thought ok things will improve. No not to what l would call the best care. Dad visited his wife every day. She was drugged up to keep her calm. She would say to my father. Scared Ray. Dad would ask why what are you scared of? She could not answer just scared Ray. Dad would take flavoured milk for her and she would drink it down with a huge thirst. He would take fruit in and would tell me she would have her mouth open like a baby bird could not get the food fast enough. One time dad called me to say his wife was in soiled clothing and bed sheets he was so distressed. He asked the staff to attend his wife immediately.
I put in a complaint on his behalf went on deaf ears.
As l would pay for her medication each month on behalf of dad l noticed they had her on epilepsy medicine she never had epilepsy antidepressants and other medications. As it was a complicated relationship. My dad had come back into my life when his wife rang me after he had left us nearly 40 years earlier, l believe she had a moment of clarity and knowing her children would not look after either of them she contacted me. My dad apologized to me for his wife ringing. I said it's ok l know she is unwell. From there l became the unofficial carer for my dad and his wife. Most of the family thought I was a fool. Maybe l was. I just couldn't stand by and watch to older people left to struggle with no idea what to do.
Anyway they have both gone to God now.
I have told my husband and kids never put me in a aged care facility. I don't trust the care. If l have my mind and my body has gone which is highly likely in my case. I shall take myself to God as l don't want to be a burden. In saying that if my mind goes and l need to go into aged care God help me.
Kind regards to all Vicki
 
It’s easier to care for someone when they show no resistance or thinking for themselves. I’ve seen first hand the soul destroying and/or deadly effects from indiscriminate administration of unnecessary and harmful medications.

It’s not limited to aged “care”. It happens in prisons too. There may be other government institutions as well. I’m only speaking from what I’ve seen.
Have a look at the geriatric wards in public hospital. My husband was hit over the head by another patient with a walking stick, (security guard in attendance was watching his phone) he was left in bed from the time I left in late afternoon till the following morning at 10am in the same pad. The bed was sopping wet, he was lying in fluid because of the plastic mattress. I waited another 20mins after complaining until I found linen and clean pad and changed him myself. He was red raw from urine burns.
 
do you actually think, this aged care home is the only one who chemically restrain residents... your kidding yourselves...
try doing a few audits, without giving the homes notice. I worked in an aged care facility, and they were given 3 weeks' notice on an audit. The facility manager wanted me to "fix" records and get them up to standard. And I know they chemically restrained some of the residents.
 
Have a look at the geriatric wards in public hospital. My husband was hit over the head by another patient with a walking stick, (security guard in attendance was watching his phone) he was left in bed from the time I left in late afternoon till the following morning at 10am in the same pad. The bed was sopping wet, he was lying in fluid because of the plastic mattress. I waited another 20mins after complaining until I found linen and clean pad and changed him myself. He was red raw from urine burns.
I am so very sorry to hear your darling husband had to suffer this way it's just a disgrace.
Kind regards Vicki
 
do you actually think, this aged care home is the only one who chemically restrain residents... your kidding yourselves...
try doing a few audits, without giving the homes notice. I worked in an aged care facility, and they were given 3 weeks' notice on an audit. The facility manager wanted me to "fix" records and get them up to standard. And I know they chemically restrained some of the residents.
I’ve seen quite a few aged care facilities & it is absolutely infuriating how our older generations are treated. I believe there should be no notice given for audits, although management could then get around that by not keeping records of what is really happening. My mother has vascular dementia & has declined quite quickly this year. She refuses to leave her home so at this point we are ringing her multiple times a day. We cook meals & freeze them & someone visits 5 out of 7 days. I know it’s going to get worse & we’re not sure how we will manage her care. She calls me no less than 10 times a day, which is fine because I work from home don’t do many hours.
 
My father's second wife had dementia and had to go in care. The first care facility, she was pushed over by another resident so my dad was told and broke her hip. After surgery she was placed in a wheelchair and never walked again as no physio was offered. Dad found another care facility for her. We thought ok things will improve. No not to what l would call the best care. Dad visited his wife every day. She was drugged up to keep her calm. She would say to my father. Scared Ray. Dad would ask why what are you scared of? She could not answer just scared Ray. Dad would take flavoured milk for her and she would drink it down with a huge thirst. He would take fruit in and would tell me she would have her mouth open like a baby bird could not get the food fast enough. One time dad called me to say his wife was in soiled clothing and bed sheets he was so distressed. He asked the staff to attend his wife immediately.
I put in a complaint on his behalf went on deaf ears.
As l would pay for her medication each month on behalf of dad l noticed they had her on epilepsy medicine she never had epilepsy antidepressants and other medications. As it was a complicated relationship. My dad had come back into my life when his wife rang me after he had left us nearly 40 years earlier, l believe she had a moment of clarity and knowing her children would not look after either of them she contacted me. My dad apologized to me for his wife ringing. I said it's ok l know she is unwell. From there l became the unofficial carer for my dad and his wife. Most of the family thought I was a fool. Maybe l was. I just couldn't stand by and watch to older people left to struggle with no idea what to do.
Anyway they have both gone to God now.
I have told my husband and kids never put me in a aged care facility. I don't trust the care. If l have my mind and my body has gone which is highly likely in my case. I shall take myself to God as l don't want to be a burden. In saying that if my mind goes and l need to go into aged care God help me.
Kind regards to all Vicki
That is so sad Bella and you’re not a fool for caring for elderly relatives. I have a friend with dementia & her husband has just retired to care for her. As she’s in her 80’s & with a lot of other ailments we all hope she drifts away before a nursing home is required. Lucky for her that her husband is ten years younger. I hope that I never ever have to be put in a nursing home.
 
They are all very bad when it comes to old people my mother in law is 94 currently my wife and her sister take turns 6mths each looking after her she can't walk and has dementia she was put in hospital a couple of weeks ago dehydrated and my wife reallised they hadn't even put her on a drip the old doctor told my wife it not worth it this upset my wife no end her sister came down from Queensland and told the doctor you can't make that decision without asking us so she spoke to a young doctor he connected a drip the next day my wife said she was a lot better with fluid in her this is why we will not put her in old people care I don't trust them
 
Yes my aunt who had alzheimers was put on serenace for agitation and it made her severely worse. I spoke to the relavent doctor who wouldn't listen to me to take her off it and put her on respiradone or zyprexa and try her on that to relieve her agitation after a fall. I had to fight, with our GP's help, who got her off the serenace and she was put on respiradone and was back to her normal loving self albeit with the dementia. I think there needs to be a wide spread look at what is happening in nursing homes with the sedation of clients. Is it for the staff's sake or the patient's. I honesty feel in my aunt's case it was for the staff's sake because their ratio was not up to the standard required. I dread to think what is going to happen to me, if I end up in a nursing home, as I have no advocate to stand up for me. It is very scary as we age.
I want the 'SHOT' when it comes to the stage.
VAD is fraught with conditions that make it a waste of time.
 
Have a look at the geriatric wards in public hospital. My husband was hit over the head by another patient with a walking stick, (security guard in attendance was watching his phone) he was left in bed from the time I left in late afternoon till the following morning at 10am in the same pad. The bed was sopping wet, he was lying in fluid because of the plastic mattress. I waited another 20mins after complaining until I found linen and clean pad and changed him myself. He was red raw from urine burns.
Not uncommon unfortunatley, my aunt was left in the same state in an expensive nursing home here in Brisbane. I am terrified for the future but don't believe in VAD sadly.
 
My father's second wife had dementia and had to go in care. The first care facility, she was pushed over by another resident so my dad was told and broke her hip. After surgery she was placed in a wheelchair and never walked again as no physio was offered. Dad found another care facility for her. We thought ok things will improve. No not to what l would call the best care. Dad visited his wife every day. She was drugged up to keep her calm. She would say to my father. Scared Ray. Dad would ask why what are you scared of? She could not answer just scared Ray. Dad would take flavoured milk for her and she would drink it down with a huge thirst. He would take fruit in and would tell me she would have her mouth open like a baby bird could not get the food fast enough. One time dad called me to say his wife was in soiled clothing and bed sheets he was so distressed. He asked the staff to attend his wife immediately.
I put in a complaint on his behalf went on deaf ears.
As l would pay for her medication each month on behalf of dad l noticed they had her on epilepsy medicine she never had epilepsy antidepressants and other medications. As it was a complicated relationship. My dad had come back into my life when his wife rang me after he had left us nearly 40 years earlier, l believe she had a moment of clarity and knowing her children would not look after either of them she contacted me. My dad apologized to me for his wife ringing. I said it's ok l know she is unwell. From there l became the unofficial carer for my dad and his wife. Most of the family thought I was a fool. Maybe l was. I just couldn't stand by and watch to older people left to struggle with no idea what to do.
Anyway they have both gone to God now.
I have told my husband and kids never put me in a aged care facility. I don't trust the care. If l have my mind and my body has gone which is highly likely in my case. I shall take myself to God as l don't want to be a burden. In saying that if my mind goes and l need to go into aged care God help me.
Kind regards to all Vicki
Bella I am sorry you also had to go through this, I send you my love.
 
One way to see wot happens to yr luv'd one in care, is, go & buy a small security system& set the camera up where it can film all aspects. Then if you're in close proximity to the establishment, go & visually check the film on a daily basis. Any signs of "Assaults incl., Miss Treatment", criminal investigation can take place with the hard evidence. The system doesn't cost an arm & a leg to buy. There is absolutely no excuse for mistreatment & such to be inflicted upon yr luvd one.

If you have the hard evidence, inform management that you have the evidence of what's happening & go straight to the police with it all in hand & lay a complaint of the "Assault". Make sure that you get an "Event Number" of proof of yr complaint. Don't mention to management of any names of staff who you suspect.

There is no doubt what-so-ever that management will want to know of particulars and view yr evidence. Just don't give them the privilege of knowledge so that others can be warned. There are numerous occasions of this style of treatment being dished out to the vulnerable in many instances. GO GET 'EM.
 
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