Protection for Gladys

Gladys was a 73-year-old woman who had been placed in a nursing home after being diagnosed with dementia. She had significant assets including four properties that she owned outright. But instead of these properties producing an income for Gladys, two were occupied rent-free by Gladys’ son and daughter and their respective families, and a third property that had been earning a rental income was untenanted, leaving Gladys with little money.

John, Gladys’ son, had been appointed as her attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney, but John was unable to pay her nursing home fees because no income was available. The nursing home fee arrears quickly reached $17,000. Rather than making arrangements for income to be earned from her real estate holdings or to sell one of the properties, John removed Gladys from the nursing home and placed her in a locked room under the house he lived in.

Someone in the community became concerned about Gladys’ living conditions and contacted our investigation team. We found that John was spending her small income on himself. Gladys’ dementia had progressed to the point that she needed prompting with daily tasks such as drinking water and using the toilet. When home help visited, they frequently found her locked in the room by herself and unable to use the bathroom.

An OPG investigator made urgent arrangements to travel to the regional location where Gladys lived. The day before our investigator arrived, John and his wife were on holiday, leaving Gladys and their children in the care of a young au pair who had no experience caring for a person with dementia. When we arrived with the local support service, Gladys was locked in her room and had soiled herself. With no one at home who could care for her properly, we called an ambulance and Gladys was transported to the local hospital.

To protect Gladys while the investigation was conducted, the Public Guardian suspended John’s powers under the Enduring Power of Attorney. During the suspension, the power for financial matters was handled by the Public Trustee of Queensland and the power for personal and health matters was handled by the Public Guardian. The investigation found that John was not managing Gladys’ funds appropriately and Gladys’ care needs were not being met.

We identified multiple breaches of the Powers of Attorney Act 1998 and we applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) seeking the appointment of an independent administrator and guardian for Gladys.