THE BLOG

Why Was an Elderly Man Left to be Cared for By His Wife Who Had Mental Health Issues?

26/01/2016 12:18 | Updated 18 January 2017

Pensioner Joan Downing has been cleared of the manslaughter of her husband who had Parkinson's Disease, after he was left on the floor of their home in Slough for around seven days in his own urine and faeces.

When she eventually called an ambulance, her husband Maurice had severe bedsores and he died five days later from multiple organ failure.

Yet why was this 72-year-old woman, who admitted after the verdict, to having mental health issues and having had treatment in psychiatric hospitals, left to care for an 82-year-old man with mobility problems who had a history of falls.

If this had been a child and parent situation, the parent would have been deemed 'unfit' and the mother would have been given extra support. Yet in this situation Maurice Downing was as vulnerable as a young child.

Slough Borough Court heard that free home care had been offered to the couple but it was refused.
It was also revealed that a social worker carried out a health check to find out whether Mr Downing could get free health care. The social worker decided that he was not eligible despite having Parkinson's and having been admitted to hospital a number of times after serious falls.

Yet according to Mrs Downing's barrister, social services said two home care workers should have been regularly giving care and support to an elderly man who instead slipped through the net and who was as vulnerable as a young child.

The Judge ruled that his wife was 'not competent to be a carer' and 'was uncooperative with social services as she was worried about the cost of care'.

Yet the authorities were aware of this.

It is encouraging that Slough Borough Council is investigating and has changed the way it works when someone with capacity rejects care and support.

Social workers do an extremely demanding and important job in often very challenging circumstances and hopefully the new procedures will prevent tragedies like this happening again.

Home care workers as well as providing vital care and support to people living at home, also have a valuable safeguarding role to play in protecting people who are vulnerable and flagging up when these people are unable to cope.

They can be a lifeline to the outside world and the only company that some elderly people have.
A simple visit from a home care worker could have changed everything.

There would have been an outcry if this had been a child left in their own urine and faeces.

Older people are more often than not very vulnerable and we have a duty to care for them and ensure they are looked after - not leave their care to a person with mental health issues.

We cannot feel proud of living in a society where an old man spends his last days lying on the floor neglected and uncared for.