Within days of Eva Rinaldi taking her father to a nursing home in November last year, she knew something was wrong.
Despite his dementia, diabetes and blindness, 80-year-old Luigi Cantali kept telling her he wasn’t showered, his continence pads were not changed, and he was left inside all day with no exercise.
Eva complained to management at Carino Care, the nursing home in the Sydney inner-west suburb of Russell Lea, but her father told her nothing had changed.
So, on Christmas Eve last year and with her father’s permission, she placed a hidden camera in his room.
The footage watched by the ABC shows some staff are friendly to Luigi, but others are non-communicative. Whether they are busy with other residents or not, important basic personal and clinical care simply does not take place.
Over two weeks, the camera captured shocking neglect of Luigi’s physical and emotional needs — with Luigi only leaving his room to go to the bathroom, sitting in his chair or lying in bed all day, and being left in soiled clothing despite leaking continence pads.
In the three days the ABC examined minute by minute, staff forget to feed him dinner, they take him into the public hallway naked, and there’s no evidence of the room being properly cleaned, despite Luigi’s excrement ending up on the floor at least twice in the three days.
You see Luigi trying not to be a bother — chatting with staff, charming them — but also being left hour after hour in the room.
This is three days in the life of Luigi Cantali.
It’s mid-morning and Luigi is alone in his room. Because he is blind, he should have a buzzer around his neck. He does not, so he struggles to get up, calling out in Italian and making noises to get attention.
He calls out loudly for his wife Angela. She had been in to visit earlier with their daughter Eva. Staff walk past the open door, they don’t get to him for seven minutes.
“I want to get up, please,” Luigi says.
The carer helps him up to the chair and when he asks, she takes him to the bathroom.
At lunchtime a carer comes in and feeds him pasta. She has 11 minutes with him before she tells him she must go and feed other residents but that he can’t go back to bed as he needs to digest his food. She promises him he can get into bed in half an hour.
Just after she leaves, Luigi puts a blanket over his head. After a woman walking in the corridor sees him, she calls a staff member to come in and she helps him wrap it around his shoulders instead.
The camera turns on as Luigi rocks in despair with his hands over his face.
It’s two and a half hours after lunch and Luigi is still sitting in his chair. He calls out to staff.
A carer comes in and gives him a snack and water.
Still hungry, Luigi feels around and finds a mango. He bites into it with the skin on, then slowly eats the flesh by peeling off the skin.
He’s been in the chair for three hours by the time someone comes in to take him to the toilet.
They change him into pyjamas.
His dinner is brought in, but left out of reach. A carer comes in and promises to return to feed him. She doesn’t come back. Another carer comes in 40 minutes after the dinner is first left, and says to Luigi: “You didn’t eat your dinner”. He, who has not had the dinner near enough to try it, says: “No. I’m alright.” She takes it away.
Overnight, Luigi is up many times, in the morning it appears he has soiled his sheets.
Luigi wakes up and is transferred to a toilet chair next to his bed by two carers.
As they sit him in the chair, pulling his pants down, excrement falls out of his adult nappy. Luigi, seemingly not knowing that he’s not on a toilet, urinates on the floor through the chair.
“You finished wee wee? This is not toilet,” one says.
One of the carers wipes up the urine and poo with a towel. She does not use any water or cleaning products on the floor.
Luigi is returned to the room after being changed.
A carer comes back in and sprays him front and back with what looks like deodorant.
A cleaner comes in and uses a dry flat mop around Luigi’s bed.
Eva said her father’s room was not cleaned properly.
“There’s no disinfectant. No nothing. And it’s like his room always constantly stunk really bad,” she said.
“You could actually smell the urine and my dad’s shoes were soaked.”
Later, Luigi falls asleep in his chair.
A carer comes in and suggests Luigi lays down on his bed. He has a pressure sore that must hurt when he is sitting.
“Because your bum is still sore,” she tells him.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says.
The footage confirms what Luigi told his daughter — that he was left in the chair for hours and hours of each day.
“That’s it, he just sat in a chair,” she says.
“Peed in a chair, pooed in the chair and did everything in that chair.”
After lunch, a male staff member explains to Luigi he needs to get into bed.
“I want to go to Italy,” Luigi tells him.
“No, I have to check your bottom, I need you on your side,” the carer tells him.
Not long after that the male carer leaves, Luigi gets taken to the toilet, but then struggling to get him back into the bed, a female carer puts him back in the chair.
He’s sitting in the chair another two hours when carers arrive to feed Luigi.
Later, a doctor comes in to look at Luigi’s legs. The doctor prescribes antibiotics because ulcers on his legs are infected. He doesn’t examine the pressure sore, nor does anyone suggest he look at it.
Luigi’s daughter, Eva, comes in to visit and points out that something has spilled on the floor near her father.
After that, it’s bed time. He stirs in the middle of the night, moving from his bed to his chair.
A carer gets Luigi up and as he’s put in the toilet chair, once again faeces fall to the floor. Again, this carer wipes it up with a dry bath towel. No disinfectant is used.
She undresses Luigi, wheeling him into the corridor naked.
When he’s returned to his room, he asks a staff member if he can go out, because he has sore legs.
“Take me to the park — where you like,” he says.
“Oh — after breakfast,” she replies, leaving the room.
A cleaner sprays a cleaning product on a part of the floor and uses a dry mop.
Luigi’s mattress is swapped out for a special inflatable mattress used for patients with pressure sores. He has a sleep.
After lunch, his wife and daughter come in to visit for a number of hours.
Overnight, the camera turns on again to show Luigi back in his chair despite the new special mattress.
Soon after this footage was taken, Eva visited the home only to find that Luigi’s special recliner — brought in by his family to keep his legs elevated — was on the verge outside.
Staff had thrown it out because of “infection control”, they told Eva.
Carino Care found the hidden camera on January 4.
Police interviewed Eva and said she was being investigated for using a surveillance device and the home management banned her from visiting her father.
Eva moved her father to a new nursing home in February this year. He died six days later and his death is the subject of a coronial inquiry.
She made dozens of complaints to the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission — the new government watchdog that started in January this year.
On Friday, after the ABC contacted the Quality and Safety Commission about Luigi Cantali, it conducted an unannounced visit at Carino Care.
A spokesman said the commission made two other visits to the facility and was looking into the complaints.
The Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said the commission would take “swift and strong compliance action” if the home was not meeting standards.
A statement from Carino Care said the home had provided Luigi Cantali with the best possible care, but management had not viewed the footage as the use of the hidden camera was a police matter.
However the NSW Police confirmed they were no longer investigating the matter.
This nursing home is one of four owned by Carino Care. Its parent company — Tierra Health — advises other aged care facilities on quality and safety standards.