A church minister has received £40,000 in compensation after her husband was left in a “vegetative state” following a stay at a Birmingham care home.
Dementia sufferer Ruffo Bravette was left critically ill, severely dehydrated and with bed sores after a two-week stay at Sunrise Senior Living in Edgbaston.
The now 59-year-old had to spend seven months as an inpatient being treated by the NHS following the £1,960 stay which was supposed to give his wife the Rev Victoria Bravette, minister of Northfield Methodist Church, a break from her role as a full-time carer.
Now the owners of the Church Road home have paid almost £40,000 in an out-of-court settlement for compensation brought against them by Mrs Bravette.
The settlement was agreed out of court, but the owners have not admitted liability. The case comes after it emerged more than 650 elderly residents have died of dehydration in care homes in the past five years.
Mrs Bravette said she found her husband in “a very poor state” when she collected him following the stay two years ago.
“I care for Ruffo single-handedly for much of the time, and had taken him to Sunrise for two weeks so I could have a desperately needed break.
“I’d been to see the home and had been impressed, and handed staff five pages of typed notes about Ruffo’s routine, his likes and dislikes, and how best to care for him. They had been out to assess him so knew exactly how much care he needed,” she said. “But when I went to pick him up I was horrified; he was in a very poor state, he’d lost a lot of weight and had a huge bed sore.
‘‘He looked half dead. He could no longer speak to me.”
Mrs Bravette took the father-of-four home before calling an ambulance. He was taken to Selly Oak Hospital, where he was diagnosed as critically ill. Doctors feared he might not survive the first night.
After leaving the care home in August 2009, Mr Bravette spent two months in Selly Oak Hospital’s critical acute ward, and a further five months at The Sheldon Unit.
She said: “Now Ruffo is like a vegetable. He doesn’t walk or talk anymore, has to be moved in and out of bed with a hoist, and requires a special wheelchair. Despite his dementia he had a good life, and stayed as active as possible.
“He is unable to tell me what happened to him at Sunrise, but whenever I say anything about it he gets very emotional.”
She made a compensation claim through Access Legal, the consumer brand from national law firm Shoosmiths.
Representing solicitor and medical negligence specialist Kishma Small said: “This is a stark case where the allegation is failure to provide basic care. Given his vulnerability he was dependent on staff to ensure he drank fluids, was fed and his pressure areas were looked after. His devoted wife had put her trust in this establishment.
‘‘She feels utterly let down. Mr Bravette needed help to take a drink, and his severe dehydration on admission to hospital tells its own story.
“Mrs Bravette formed the impression when she called to collect her husband that staff had simply failed to realise how ill he had become.
“Later, the care home apparently blamed district nurses. One wonders what Mrs Bravette and her husband were paying for. What remained of his capacity to enjoy life – taking walks, shopping trips, a visit to the beach – disappeared in two short weeks.
“This case also reflects growing national concerns about whether care homes are able to provide acceptable standards of respite care, and whether or not they’re being regulated and assessed properly. People are being encouraged to seek respite care for relatives to ease the stress of looking after them, but often, as in Mrs Bravette’s case, the poor levels of care end up doubling the stress, rather than easing it.”
Sunrise Senior Living, which runs care and nursing homes across the country, would not comment on the case but said in a statement: “We care deeply about our residents and have a number of policies and procedures in place that address their welfare.
"We take matters such as these very seriously and move quickly to take any corrective actions, if necessary, to always protect their health and safety. We have confidence in our new management team at this community and continuously evaluate our performance to make certain we are meeting our high standards of care.”
Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed 157 vulnerable pensioners died of malnutrition in the past five years and another 2,000 from superbugs Clostridium difficile and MRSA.
It is feared the totals may be higher because care home residents who die in hospital are not included in the statistics. The figures were compiled after analysing death certificates of care home residents in England and Wales between 2005 and 2009. The totals cover both underlying causes of death and contributory factors.
Analysts found there were 667 victims of dehydration, 157 of malnutrition and 1,928 deaths linked to superbugs. Some 1,446 died suffering with pressure ulcers, otherwise know as bedsores, while 4,866 died with septicaemia, or blood poisoning. Another 4,881 had fatal falls.