Dementia patient died after move: Family says Muriel (91) deteriorated when forced to change nursing home
The grandson of a dementia sufferer who died just weeks after she was forced to move out of her nursing home said the decision to close the facility was detrimental to her health.
East Belfast man Jonathan Rice described how his grandmother's health deteriorated in the weeks after she was moved from the Four Seasons Stormont nursing home where she lived for three years.
Although Muriel Charleton (91) suffered from severe dementia, she was said to be happy in her nursing home.
According to Mr Rice, his frail grandmother lost her appetite after she was moved to a nursing home on the Ravenhill Road at the end of January. On February 20, the care home officially closed its doors leaving 29 residents and 49 members of staff devastated.
After Muriel's family were told of the impending closure in November last year, they made desperate attempts to find her a new home.
Mr Rice believes that a medical assessment should have been carried out in the days following her move.
"To take dementia patients out of their surroundings is detrimental to their health," he said.
"The carers in the Ravenhill Road nursing home were fantastic but she passed away within three weeks. I believe she suffered greatly because she was moved. She was happy there at the Stormont care home.
"We couldn't even tell her she was being moved because her dementia was so bad she wouldn't have understood, but we saw things in her personality changing. She knew something had happened.
"She got very upset by the move but she couldn't tell us. While the care home was fantastic, we saw her appetite was affected, she wasn't eating as much and there was a sadness with her."
Jonathan said the whole experience had been very distressing for his family. He said: "We thought she would have been in the home until the end of her life. My grandmother lasted just three weeks."
It has also emerged that eight of the 29 residents at Four Seasons Stormont nursing home died after they were moved to a new home, some within weeks.
A post on a Facebook page to support the care homes revealed four residents from Victoria Park nursing home also died in similar circumstances.
Before Christmas, Four Seasons announced that it planned to close seven nursing homes in Northern Ireland. Two have since been reprieved after a buyer was found.
A spokesman for Four Seasons Health Care said: "We understand that closure of a care home can be upsetting for the people living there and that transfer to a new care setting can cause stress to some of them, no matter how good it may be. Of a total of 55 residents who previously lived at Stormont and Victoria Park care homes, 13 have subsequently died.
"However, it would be entirely wrong to leap to the assumption that this is an exceptionally high incidence of deaths or that moving to a new care home brought them forward.
"They occurred over a period of around three-and-a-half months, during the winter when sadly deaths among frail elderly people tend to be at a higher level than during the rest of the year. The most important factor is that the residents of these homes included a significant number who were in very advanced years and had complex conditions requiring full time nursing care."