Great-Gran ‘Starved’ Herself In Care Home

A PROUD and private great-grandmother died after starving herself for nearly three months in a ‘urine-soaked’ residential home. Greta Campbell, 78, of Westmoreland Road, Douglas, weighed about four stone when she died in Noble’s Hospital last month.

After spending nearly three months in Glenside Resource Centre, Douglas, Greta was transferred to hospital with a degree of urgency following an unannounced visit by the Government Registrations and Inspections Unit.

Her daughter Lynn Mather, of Ballabrooie Drive, Douglas, said: ‘You expect your loved one to be kept warm and comfortable.

‘You do not expect a urine-soaked environment. And you don’t expect to find excrement on a drinking glass.’

Though she suffered from dementia, Greta’s family blame the ‘disgraceful’ environment of Glenside Resource Centre’s Elderly Mental Infirm Unit for her ‘unnecessary’ rapid decline.

Lynn said: ‘That place is an absolute disgrace. Why don’t they just close it, rip it out and start again?

‘The reek of urine in Glenside is absolutely disgusting. They tried to fob us off by saying it was cleaning products.’

She said: ‘When you knelt on the floor you got wet patches on your knees and the armchair was wet – it stank of urine.’

She explained that when her mother arrived at the home, the mattress had to be thrown away because it was wet.

She also described how clean clothes became damp when left in her mother’s room and her suitcase had to be thrown out after it became covered in mildew.

‘I don’t care if they thought I was a snob,’ she said. ‘Why should the elderly have to live with that? I wouldn’t put my dogs in there.’

But it was the only place the family could afford.

Greta first started showing the signs of dementia four years ago and this spring it was decided she required 24-hour care.

She moved to Glenside Resource Centre in July but, after just one week, the family witnessed a sudden deterioration.

‘She was completely closed off,’ said Lynn. ‘There was no interaction with her. She was miserable and depressed.’

She added: ‘One time we found her slumped with her head on the dining table.’

Lynn also said: ‘She was so cold that I would get into bed with her to warm her up. But when I brought her a hot water bottle they said it was a health and safety risk.’

The family feel that, once Greta stopped eating, she should have been reassessed and subsequently transferred to a nursing home for more adequate care.

However, despite holding various meetings to tackle the family’s concerns, the Department of Health and Social Services decided not to move Greta.

‘If you can eat and look after your own hygiene you go into residential, if not you go to nursing,’ said Lynn. ‘She had gone like an anorexic. Why was she just left in there?’

She said: ‘I told staff “mum is dying in front of our eyes and no-one is noticing”.’

Eventually, the family contacted the Government Registrations and Inspections Unit.

They visited the home and Greta was taken to hospital the following day.

‘She started eating and drinking again,’ said Lynn. ‘It was a lovely moment. It was like a five-star hotel there. It was clean, warm, sunny and fresh and the staff were superb.’

But it was too late – Greta died two months later.

‘They let her down,’ said Lynn. ‘You go along with the professionals because you think they know better. But they didn’t. Now we have lost mum. It’s heartbreaking.’

‘It isn’t about the blame game,’ she said, ‘It is about trying to change things for the better. Mum had her family there for her to be a voice. What about those who have nobody?’

Lynn Mathers wrote to the Isle of Man Examiner following an article about the services available for the approximate 1,000 Islanders with dementia.


THE Government Registrations and Inspections Unit’s findings included:

• Greta had lost a stone in under five weeks
• Her fluid and food intake records were insufficiently detailed
• A urine sample taken nearly a month earlier had not yet been tested
• She had not had her pain care plan re-evaluated for some time
• She had not received any pressure-relieving aids, such as cushions,despite receiving a high score in a pressure risk assessment.
• Health professionals had been consulted in the care of Greta.
• On the day of the inspection, the temperature in Greta’s room was adequate.

In conclusion the inspectors advised that ‘communication between staff and management and staff relatives should be further developed’.

Following this report, Lynn received a letter from the assistant director of social services offering a ‘commitment to continue to improve in finding the best outcomes for people’. Greta died two days later.


IN response to Lynn Mather’s letter, the Department of Health and Social Security released a statement.

It said it did not feel it appropriate to respond to individual points raised in Mrs Mather’s letter.

But said: ‘During the time Mrs Campbell was cared for in one of our residential homes, the family did raise a number of concerns about her care.

‘These were dealt with initially by meetings of the home’s manager with family members to discuss and resolve issues raised by Mrs Campbell’s family.

‘The Social Services Division Registrations and Inspections Unit subsequently undertook an independent investigation of concerns at Mrs Mather’s request and responded directly to Mrs Mather.

‘Following this, there was a multi-agency meeting to ensure care was co-ordinated across all agencies involved. A senior manager of the Division also met with Mrs Mather as part of our complaints procedure, to review the family’s concerns and advise on action that had been taken in respect of those concerns.’

It added: ‘We regret that Mrs Mather and her family felt that the quality of care Mrs Campbell received did not meet their expectations.

The department is committed to offering the best possible care and to ensuring appropriate action is taken to address concerns raised about care or service provision provided, working in partnership with clients and their families.’