Family's agony as loved one dies after catalogue of grim neglect
A 97-year-old woman endured a catalogue of appalling neglect at Dunmurry Manor just a matter of weeks ago, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Matilda Crawford, known as Tilly, passed away at the home a fortnight ago. At the time, she was suffering with infection C. difficile and her devastated family said she weighed just four stone after being confined to her room for the last couple of years.
In a further blow, they said they had no idea about the ongoing failings at the home until they read about them in the Belfast Telegraph this week.
Her son Ernie Crawford said: "I'm heartbroken. I took her death badly, but I have taken this worse. I have asked myself what my mother went through, what abuse and torture she suffered in the last years of her life."
Reacting to the latest development, Eddie Lynch, the commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, said: "I'm shocked and more concerned than ever. This raises serious questions about assurances given by the Department of Health on Monday that Dunmurry Manor had made improvements.
"My focus is now on ensuring that my recommendations are implemented swiftly and in full."
Mrs Crawford was one of the first residents at Dunmurry Manor when it opened in 2014. Her grand-daughter, Elizabeth Crawford, who lives in south Belfast, said: "At the time I was living in England, so I only got in to see her on my visits home.
"It was when I moved back home last September and was seeing her all the time that I started to get really worried.
"They were missing her meals, she was telling us she wasn't getting any food.
"When we went in to see her, there would be trays of uneaten food lying on the bedside table and her water would be out of reach so she couldn't get a drink.
"Not long before she died, I took out her dentures and it seemed to be a relief to her. I think because she had lost so much weight, they didn't fit well and she found it difficult to eat.
"She was diagnosed with C. difficile a few weeks before she died, but none of the staff wore aprons or gloves and no one ever said that we should, either.
"I thought she smelled and I mentioned it to the staff and they said they couldn't wash her as they weren't trained in how to use chemicals. They claimed they needed chemicals because she had C. difficile."
She added: "On one visit, I took out her teeth and they were all caked, I don't know the last time they had been cleaned so I had to scrub them myself.
"I spoke to the staff about the fact her teeth weren't being cleaned and they told us it was the family's responsibility.
"We have videos of me scrubbing her teeth and the bin in the bathroom is full, I have no idea when it was last cleaned. There were dirty drinking glasses sitting on the toilet cistern, the shelf in the bathroom is filthy.
"It's unbelievable that someone was left to live in such filth and even worse because she had C. difficile.
"There was an alarm near her door so staff would know if she had left the room, or someone had gone in. There were times when I would stand on it by accident and it would be an hour before someone would respond."
Ms Crawford said they arrived on one occasion and discovered their grandmother had a black eye.
Staff told them she had been assaulted by another resident, but the family was provided with no further explanation.
She added: "As far as we are aware, she never left that room the whole time she was in the home. They never even lifted her out of bed, except when we complained and then they would just leave her sitting in her chair. They never took her to the day room or anything like that. It makes you wonder how she managed to get C. difficile.
"As far as I am concerned, they left her there to die, she was starved to death and was dehydrated every time I saw her. When she did die, they told us in the corridor, in a public place. We're all absolutely devastated, this has broken our family."
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the case proves the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), which has said it has not failed in its role as Northern Ireland's health watchdog, is not fit for purpose and has called for it to be closed immediately.
"The RQIA fails to protect the most vulnerable people in society time and time again and this case proves that," he said.
Staff at Runwood Homes' headquarters in England would not comment on the claims and referred the matter to a Press officer, who did not return calls yesterday.