Woman with cerebral palsy and moderate intellectual disability nearly died when bowel disease catastrophically escalated after support workers in her group home failed to properly follow her nutrition and care protocols , learned the royal commission on the disabled.
The Royal Commission is examining issues of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in disability services, focusing on two group homes for people with disabilities operated by an NDIS provider.
On Wednesday, the commission heard numerous testimonies from Jennifer *, the mother of Natalie *, who suffers from cerebral palsy and a moderate intellectual disability. Natalie also uses a wheelchair, hearing aids and wears glasses. She has been described as “cheeky, outgoing” and “very confident”.
Jennifer testified by way of a written statement which was read aloud by the attorney assisting her. In it, she details her concerns about managing Natalie’s health, her finances, and allegations that Natalie was indecently assaulted by one of her support workers at a group home run by Life Without Barriers.
In 2020, Natalie underwent surgery to remove a calcified fecal mass in her rectum that had changed the shape of her uterus, possibly permanently, and was on the verge of rupturing her bowel, Jennifer said.
Natalie had bowel problems before moving into the group home in 2012, and was taken to hospital with a bowel obstruction early in her stay there. Jennifer said she was told Natalie was in the hospital on this occasion only when she was called by Natalie’s father.
Jennifer said she called an LWB staff member to ask why she hadn’t been told Natalie was being taken to hospital. “She said she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want to tell me,” Jennifer said in her statement.
Natalie has received meal management, nutrition and exercise plans from health professionals to help her manage her problems. Life Without Barriers staff were supposed to keep records of their daily food and fluid intake, as well as their bowel movements.
On March 9, 2020, Natalie was taken to the hospital emergency room by a non-BSF caregiver. She was then operated on.
The family learned that Natalie was on the verge of a ruptured intestine and sepsis. “The doctors also said they didn’t know how things got so bad with Natalie’s intestines,” Jennifer said. “Natalie almost died from this incident. “
LWB staff were unable to produce more than five days of Natalie’s intestinal records from the months leading up to the hospital visit, the investigation said.
“I think the staff at LWB did not manage it properly, despite the fact that I have repeatedly stressed the importance of its bowel management to disability support workers and team leaders,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer said she gave Life Without Barriers explicit instructions when Natalie entered the group home that her daughter’s personal care should only be provided by female staff, as that is what Natalie preferred. Jennifer later found out that Life Without Barriers was violating this request.
In August 2015, Jennifer learned that a support worker had been charged with assault and sexual assault on Natalie.
Jennifer said she understood Life Without Barriers only reported Natalie’s alleged assault to police after conducting its own internal investigation.
The male support worker was found not guilty in September 2017. He was then fired from Life Without Barriers.
After the alleged assault, Natalie developed anxiety and became angry in a very unusual way.
During a subsequent counseling session, the counselor told Natalie that she would never have to see the disability support worker again who allegedly assaulted her again.
“[Natalie] started singing “never, never, never”. Natalie is primarily non-verbal and had never done anything like this before. Anne [Natalie’s sister] and I started to cry because at that point we knew what happened had affected Natalie deeply emotionally, ”Jennifer said.
In the nearly 10 years that Natalie was at home, Jennifer said she made several attempts to voice concerns about what she saw as failures in Natalie’s care and actions. inappropriate staff. These included handling Natalie’s finances, over which LWB had effective control for three years, as only they had access to her key card.
“LWB had concrete control over their money,” Jennifer said. “Sometimes if Natalie wanted to buy something or go out, I would tell her to ask the staff at LWB to give her some of her money. Natalie told me that she had already asked, but that they would not give it to her.
“I don’t really know how LWB used Natalie’s money. I was still paying for Natalie’s many lunches, drugstore bills, and new clothes.
Jennifer said she filed numerous complaints with Life Without Barriers during the time Natalie lived there. “The only time LWB seemed to take any of my complaints or concerns seriously was around the time the indecent assault and sexual assault allegations against Natalie came to light in 2015.” , Jennifer said.
Life Without Barriers will testify later in the investigation.
* Names are pseudonyms used by the committee for confidentiality reasons