A CARER has been found guilty of ill-treating a 95-year-old woman at a Torquay care home.
Caroline Netherclift, 34, of Higher Warberry Road, Torquay, was charged with ill-treating a resident who lacked mental capacity at Southbourne Care Home in Babbacombe last September.
She pleaded not guilty but was found guilty after a trial at Torquay Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday and Thursday.
Prosecutor Deborah Hodges said the elderly resident suffered from dementia which resulted in behavioural issues, and lacked the capacity to make a complaint to the police.
The incident, in which Netherclift twisted — the defence claim pinched — the resident’s nose, resulting in a bruise, was reported by Netherclift’s colleague, who had been putting slippers on the resident’s feet at the time.
Mrs Hodges said even pinching the woman’s nose was unreasonable.
The court heard that Netherclift claimed the elderly woman was lashing out, as she was prone to do, and the carer took hold of the resident’s nose to prevent any further attack.
The court heard from a number of care staff who were working at Southbourne at the time that they were trained to walk away and let this resident, who was ‘hard to deal with at times’, calm down when she became agitated, as long as she was not at risk herself.
Care assistant Fiona Wright, who had been helping the defendant to get the resident washed and dressed before breakfast, told the court that the resident used to get very agitated, particularly in the mornings, and flail her arms.
She said: “Quite often she would lash out at staff but we were all aware of it. If she was like that we would leave the room and come back to her a short time later.
“On September 14, she was a little agitated but not enough to leave her. Caroline was putting a cardigan on her and I was putting slippers on her. I heard her shout out ‘ouch’ and looked up. My colleague was twisting her nose.
“I was stunned. On our break, a colleague said does anyone know what’s happened to her nose as there’s a bruise. I kept quiet because I thought Caroline would say something but she didn’t. I waited until the following day before reporting it. It was wrong. It’s not the sort of thing you do to an elderly lady.”
Lisa Rees, who was the manager of the care home at the time, told the court that Netherclift was suspended as soon as she heard about the incident.
She said she was aware that the resident had punched out at staff and had previously bitten Netherclift, but said: “I don’t believe there were any circumstances where holding the nose would be an acceptable action.”
Defending, Mervyn Williams said the resident was violent and unpredictable, prone to hitting and biting. He said the care staff had been advised that they could use reasonable force in the event of an attack.
He said: “She pinched the end of her nose and it worked. After that, all was quiet. It was an action carried out in very little thinking time that enabled everything to carry on as it should. It was self-defence.
“She wouldn’t walk away because of the threat left to the person still there and the possibility of self-harm by the resident.”
The court heard that Netherclift was a woman of good character who no longer works in the care profession.
The magistrates said: “The resident sometimes displays very challenging behaviour to those caring for her, and can become violent to the extent carers have to leave the room.
“She’s a lady in her 90s with advanced dementia which makes her vulnerable.
“Mrs Netherclift denied any twisting but admitted pinching the nose as she had done on a previous occasion.
“Her evidence displays an unwillingness to comply with procedures and we say she did twist the nose, causing the bruise.
“We don’t believe the resident posed such a threat that the only reasonable thing she could have done was twist the nose.”
Netherclift will be sentenced on September 29, following the preparation of a pre-sentence report by the probation service.