A hidden camera in an Adelaide nursing home has captured footage of a staff member appearing to attempt to suffocate an 89-year-old man, prompting calls to legalise the installation of cameras in the private rooms of aged care facilities.
Noleen Hausler had been suspicious about her father’s bruises but lacked proof to back her complaints that he was being abused in his Adelaide nursing home.
Bedridden Clarence Hausler, 89, has end-stage dementia and cannot walk or talk.
“I thought I wasn’t being heard and I was suspicious of a certain staff member,” Ms Hausler told 7.30 in an exclusive interview.
“I thought long and hard about how I could actually get the evidence and the only way I could do that was to put in a video camera and film what was going on.”
The tiny spy camera she covertly placed in her father’s private room at the Mitcham Residential Care Facility in Adelaide in September last year recorded disturbing acts of abuse in just two days.
In the video, Corey Lyle Lucas, Mr Hausler’s carer employed by the facility, appeared to violently force-feed Mr Hausler with a spoon, sneeze on him, eat Mr Hausler’s food using his cutlery, flick his nose and pin Mr Hausler’s arms down when he resisted.
The video also appeared to show Lucas attempting to suffocate Mr Hausler with a large napkin.
“I honestly didn’t know what to do at first. I thought about ringing the facility because I was scared for my father’s safety but I thought that I wouldn’t do that and I knew that this was very serious so I went down to the Sturt police station,” Ms Hausler said.
The abuse she recorded led to Lucas’ conviction for aggravated assault.
‘The care just wasn’t the same’
Mr Hausler became a resident of Mitcham Residential Care in 2002. The facility was later taken over by a subsidiary of Japara Healthcare, whose website states it is “one of Australia’s largest private sector enterprises in the aged care and retirement industry”.
Ms Hausler said the standard of care subsequently declined.
“The amount of care from a one-on-one basis changed. You could see that they were cutting costs, less expensive options were what was going to be available and just generally the care just wasn’t the same.”
Soon after, according to Ms Hausler, her father’s behaviour changed.
“He became a lot more reserved and protective in his demeanour. If I asked him if he was OK or if there was something wrong, he would look at me and then look away,” Ms Hausler said.
‘I was prepared to go to jail’
Mitcham Residential Care’s response when South Australian Police detectives showed the secret footage to management was to forbid Ms Hausler from any further recordings.
“Instead of offering Noleen empathy, they instead sent her a letter to cease and desist from filming, as if she was the problem,” Adair Donaldson, lawyer for the Hauslers, told 7.30.
“[Mitcham Residential Care] said that I had breached [the] Privacy Act, the Aged Care Act and Video Surveillance Act,” Ms Hausler said.
Mr Donaldson said Ms Hausler was fortunate the evidence she collected was found admissible and that it led to the successful conviction of Lucas.