Court told of steps family took to look after elderly dementia sufferer

A man employed as a carer has told how issues with an elderly dementia sufferer - including toileting problems and wandering - were dealt with by his family "as they came up".

The carer told a Christchurch District Court trial about how and why measures were put in place for the 90-year-old man suffering from advanced dementia, by his son at the house where they lived.

The man had originally been employed to do plastering at the house, but was then asked to stay with the elderly man from time to time, and over about a year he spent time caring for him during the day and staying overnight with him for up to 28 nights in total.

The Crown has alleged in the trial - now in its second week before Judge Mark Callaghan sitting as a judge-alone without a jury - that the man was locked in his room overnight without access to light, ventilation or proper toileting arrangements.

The man's son, and his partner, are both charged with neglecting the vulnerable man by imposing the conditions he lived in, and for failing to get him his prescribed antibiotics when he was discharged from hospital after a bout of pneumonia.

The man also faces 52 charges alleging he took a total of $275,239 from the elderly man's bank account while he had enduring power of attorney, or from the family trust account.

He also faces one fraud charge, with the police alleging he transferred $35,000 to the account of a company he owned and used it to buy a vehicle. When a lawyer who was a trustee questioned the transaction, the police say the man provided a false document showing that the money had been used for repairs to the elderly man's house.

Another witness today told of making a building inspection at the request of the police and being shown an invoice listing work on the house. His inspection showed the work had not been done, he said.

The carer said he was usually the only one at home with the elderly man during the day, or during the night. The man would sometimes confuse night and day, and he sometimes found him dressed during the night, out of his room, and ready to go out.

A lock was put on his bedroom door to stop him leaving the room but he was out of the room all day. Checks were made to ensure the man could not take anything into the room that he might use to hurt himself.

Adult nappies and a wetsuit were used after he made a mess in another part of the house. He was also told about a mess in the bedroom, and also faeces being down the hallway and in the bathroom.

The carer would get him out of the suit in the morning but he would only have urinated and there were seldom faeces to clean up.

When other people such as carers came into the house, the old man would sometimes become agitated. He needed "regular, familiar faces". When he became upset, the carer would call his son who would calm him down on the phone.

He said the elderly man was always clean and well presented. He said he had no concerns about the way the family was caring from him. "The restrictions put in place made sense to me. He was free to do whatever he wanted. When we could not observe him at night, yes, he would be restricted."

He said the father and son loved each other, and it was a "big, living family".

The couple have been refused name suppression but are appealing the decision, so suppression continues until that hearing.

The trial is continuing.

-By David Clarkson
Open Justice multimedia journalist

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