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Family’s Anger After Dementia Sufferer Died In Agony From Pressure Sores

Expert Lawyers Call For Assurance that Improvements Have Been Made By Care Home


By Helen MacGregor

Lawyers acting for the devastated family of a grandmother-of-two who died in agony after she developed horrific pressure sores have called for assurances from a care home that lessons have been learnt to prevent other families suffering the same heartache.

Rita Smith from Wickhamford in Worcestershire dedicated her life to caring for others, spending 35 years as a volunteer teaching first aid and nursing care.

But the family of the pensioner, who suffered from dementia, say she was ‘totally let down’ when she was at her most vulnerable, despite paying Bidford-on-Avon based Waterloo House and Avon Lodge care home £2,000 a month of her hard earned savings for what the family thought would be a high standard of care.

Rita was ill and confined to bed with an infection and relied on the care home staff to turn her regularly to prevent her skin condition from deteriorating. However, she died from blood poisoning in November 2008, aged 74, after she developed horrific pressure sores which became infected and reached her bloodstream.   

Despite the care home having a policy and care plan in place to prevent pressure sores, which stated that Rita should be turned every two hours, expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell instructed by Rita’s family found that on one occasion according to the care home’s own records Rita was not turned for 13 hours. 

Daughter Debbie Wride is now echoing Irwin Mitchell’s calls for assurances that improvements have been made, after the care home’s insurance company Alpha Health Care Limited agreed to pay a five figure out-of-court settlement to the family for their loss.

Lucy Erskine, a medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, who represented the family, said: “Despite a very clear care plan, the instructions were not fully implemented by the care home staff. The care home’s records show that on one occasion Rita was left for 13 hours without being moved.

“Debbie is understandably distraught by her mother’s death and, in particular, the fact that severe pressure sores were allowed to develop to the extent that they did.

“Pressure sores of this kind are completely avoidable if proper care and procedures are followed. The care home needs to reassure residents and their families that improvements have been made since Rita’s death to prevent others suffering from similar problems and safeguard their residents care and dignity.”

Rita, who in addition to being a dedicated Red Cross volunteer worked as an executive officer with the prison service, had in later life been diagnosed with dementia and was admitted to the care home in March 2008.

But by September that year Rita had lost weight, become distressed and tearful and was confined to her bed with a urinary tract infection.  Following a visit from her GP on the 15th of September it was noted that she was weak, not eating, dehydrated and had developed pressure sores. A care plan was then put in place in an attempt to prevent the sores from worsening.

Just two weeks later, Rita had to be transferred to Warwick Hospital suffering from a grade 4 pressure sore on her bottom (the most serious grading). It was found that her pressure sore had been infected with MRSA and she was treated for blood poisoning before being transferred to Ellen Badger Hospital in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire on 21st November. Despite the care she received there, she died just three days later.

Rita’s daughter, Debbie Wride, commented: “My Mum was in a very vulnerable condition, but we all put our trust in the care home believing that they were doing their best for her. They reassured us they could care for her needs, but as the weeks went by we started to seriously question the quality of care that she was being given.

“During her time with the Red Cross Mum taught first aid and basic nursing care at a local college and prison. She was passionate about teaching high standards of nursing care and for her to die in this way is unforgiveable. 

“She used to always say that one of the fundamentals of nursing care was to make sure that your patient avoided a pressure sore.  The tragic irony is that despite my Mum dedicating her life to caring for others, when she was at her most vulnerable and reliant upon others to care for her, she was totally let down.

“My Mum spent her last weeks in agony and she did not get the care that she deserved. When she was admitted to hospital, doctors told us that her body was fused in the foetal position, suggesting it was likely because she had barely been turned. 

“Her death has devastated the entire family.  We are so angry about the level of care she received, from a care home that she was paying over £2,000 per month of her hard earned savings for.

“But this was never about the money, we’ve never had an apology and we still do not feel we have all the answers as to why she was not regularly turned by care home staff who should have known better.”

Lucy Erskine added: “Whilst the family recognises that sadly nothing can turn back the clock, they are anxious to ensure that no-one else has to suffer needlessly as their mother did.

“The care home needs to reassure patients and their families improvements have been made to prevent, diagnose and treat pressure sores so this cannot happen again.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise relating to Fatal Claims and Pressure Sore Claims.