Carer found guilty of hitting dementia sufferer

THE family of an 84-year-old dementia sufferer – who was punched and slapped by an angry care home worker after she lost her temper – say justice has been done.

Fellow carers at Huntleigh Lodge, in Taylors Avenue, Cleethorpes, reported the behaviour of Maria Cook, 43, to bosses, who suspended her immediately.

Cook, of Caistor Drive, Grimsby, denied ill-treating frail Tony Jacklin – who has severe dementia – but was found guilty after a four-day trial at Sheffield Crown Court.

Today, Mr Jacklin’s daughters, Stephanie Jacklin and Bridget Hansen, said: “There are few things more despicable than assaulting a frail, confused and frightened old man, who depends on you for the most basic of care.

“Justice has been done and we hope it plays some role in setting an example of appropriate care for the increasing numbers of dementia sufferers.”

And bosses at HICA, which owns Huntleigh Lodge, said they are “delighted” at the conviction, which came about as a result of whistle-blowing procedures at the home.

Chief executive Andrew Stow said: “We are appalled at what happened. We do not tolerate behaviour of this kind and it was our whistle- blowing policy, where we encourage all members of staff who witness misconduct to report it as soon as possible, which led to this incident being reported.

“The person in question was immediately suspended and subsequently dismissed.

“We are delighted that she has now been found guilty. People like her bring the profession into disrepute but thankfully they remain the exception.”

The court heard how Cook was furious at resident Mr Jacklin for lashing out at her on October 22 last year and swore as she slapped him: “If you kick me, this is what you get.”

Megan Rhys, prosecuting, said Cook was asked to help Mr Jacklin get up. She muttered under her breath that she would get Mr Jacklin’s wife up but not him. She begrudgingly agreed to do so, however, and she and another carer, Diana Blackmore, went to his room.

The court heard Mr Jacklin suffered from severe dementia, hard of hearing and had cataracts. He was frail, had poor mobility, could not look after himself and was vulnerable, the court was told.

Without warning, Cook swung Mr Jacklin’s legs towards her as he lay on his bed, causing his body to turn and become badly twisted and pushed against a wall. She was “huffing and puffing”.

Mr Jacklin kicked out, hitting her in the stomach. She picked up a towel, twisted it and used it to swipe him in the stomach.

“She bent forward, dropped the towel on him and deliberately punched him to the shoulder really hard,” claimed Miss Rhys. “She slapped him across the face with force. She was clearly furious.”

Cook stormed out of the room, saying: “That’s the last time I’m dealing with him.”

Mr Jacklin apologised and asked if he had done anything wrong and was reassured. Other carers were upset about the matter and reported it to the home’s manager.

Cook later denied punching or slapping Mr Jacklin and said she knew he was not responsible for his actions and that, when he hit out, it was simply his illness. She admitted she swore but claimed she would not have used any violence because she knew that it would be reported.

In court, Cook claimed she had earlier seen Mr Jacklin lashing out and tried to reassure him. She denied swearing and saying she would not get him up. She also denied hitting or slapping Mr Jacklin and claimed she had done nothing untoward and that other members of staff had lied.

Ms Blackmore told the court that Cook was “very angry” at the time of the ill-treatment incident.

She said it was known among staff that Mr Jacklin could be difficult.

“He can lash out at you or spit or punch or kick you,” she said. “I wouldn’t think he was aware of what he was doing.

“She was determined not to get him up, from the tone of her voice.

“I think he kicked her in the stomach. He was upset, very upset – more frightened. She pulled back and said: ‘That’s hurt my stomach’. She picked a towel up and hit him with it – flicked it. It was totally inappropriate.

“You don’t do anything like that. She slapped him straight across the face, with the words: ‘If you kick me, this is what you’ll get’.”

“We are there to help and protect, not to hurt somebody.”

Sentence was adjourned for reports and Cook – who had a previous conviction for benefit fraud – was allowed conditional bail.

Judge Rosalind Coe QC told Cook: “I am not giving you any indication of what the sentence may be.”