New Zealand
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Woman lay dead at home for a month - angry daughter seeks answers

Palmerston woman Donna Te Waihia holds a photograph of her late mother Patricia Dickson, who lay dead for weeks in her Christchurch flat before being found. Photo / Gerard O'Brien

Palmerston woman Donna Te Waihia holds a photograph of her late mother Patricia Dickson, who lay dead for weeks in her Christchurch flat before being found. Photo / Gerard O'Brien


By Chris Barclay of Star Media

WARNING: Graphic comment

An Otago woman whose mother lay dead in a housing unit for about a month before being discovered by police has criticised health authorities' care of the elderly dementia and chronic diabetes sufferer.

Patricia Dickson, who also required hearing aids, was found dead and badly decomposed inside the Woolston, Christchurch, property she occupied for 13 years when police broke into the unit on May 9.

Police were alerted after a Kainga Ora staff member visited the address and found a calling card they had left about four weeks earlier.

Dickson was found in a hallway and is believed to have died shortly after being released from Christchurch Hospital in early April, where she was treated in relation to her diabetes.

Donna Te Wahia said the 81-year-old was let down by Nurse Maude, Christchurch Hospital, her doctor and St John New Zealand, with a communication breakdown condemning Dickson to languish undiscovered.

"She had been in that position for about four weeks. She had a seriously decomposed body, her flesh was moulded into the carpet. There were maggots, horrendous blowflies," she said.

Dickson's death certificate listed the cause as mild cognitive impairment sudden death and noted her history of diabetes, Parkinson's disease and asthma.

Te Wahia, who lives in Palmerston north of Dunedin, was determined to find out how and why her mother's support system broke down.

"As far as I'm concerned the health system failed my mother," she said.

Her prime concern was Nurse Maude not resuming visits after her mother left hospital, because she did not call the organisation to confirm she had been released.

"Expecting my mother to make calls ... she had dementia, Parkinson's disease and a few other health issues," Te Wahia said.

She said Nurse Maude, who provided home care for Dickson from March, 2019, should have access to keys when elderly clients are living alone so they can check on them.

Nurse Maude general manager marketing Sue Sutherland said Dickson called to cancel home care on April 6, a day after she was admitted to hospital.

"When Patricia was discharged about a week later Nurse Maude was not notified by either Patricia or the hospital and nor did we receive a request to reactivate care," she said.

"Without notification of discharge from the hospital, or a request to reactivate care, there is nothing Nurse Maude could have done differently.

"We would have expected to hear from her (Dickson), the hospital or the family, whoever was best placed to do it. We need to know when they go in and when they come out," Sutherland said, adding access would not have prevented a "tragic outcome" for the family.

"Having a key would have made no difference in this case as no home care visits were scheduled."

Canterbury District Health Board acting executive director planning, funding and decision support, Sandy McLean, would not comment on individual patient care.

But generally reactivation of services not essential to maintain the immediate health of the person, like help with household tasks, can be reactivated by family or by the person themselves upon discharge from hospital "as it not always known to the clinical team that these services are being received".

Dickson had a medical alarm monitored by St John but the retired nurse was not wearing it when she was found because, Te Wahia believes, her mother removed it before showering.

"There needs to be better education because she didn't think it was waterproof. They're going to look at doing that, so that's a positive," she said.

Asked if the family could have done more to check on Dickson, Te Wahia said her four children also lived far from Christchurch and her mother's hearing difficulties made communication difficult.

"The children are in Australia, Auckland, Nelson and Hampden (North Otago).

"I don't think it's the family's responsibility, we all had faith in the health system," she said.

"My mother didn't deserve that. I can't bring mum back but I want the system to change for other elderly people that are on their own. I would never wish this on anyone else."

- Star Media