Get flushed! Granny cops $5600 bill for using toilet
A 90-YEAR-OLD woman has been charged for simply getting out of bed after an aged care provider secretly placed a sensor mat in her room.
The family of Betty McDowall said they had no idea their elderly mum was being charged when she got out of bed and stood on a sensor mat until they received a bill for her care that topped $5600 in January.
After demanding answers from aged care provide Envigor, they found the sensor mat that triggered an alarm and automatically billed her every time it went off. It had been put down where their mum placed her feet on the floor to leave her bed.
She was being billed in 15 minute increments, at as much as $104 an hour, for as many as 13 "personal care" visits in a day, her daughter Dianne Bradeley said.
The revelation comes as the release of the aged care royal commission's final report into the sector that impacts millions of elderly Australians and their families is due Friday.
Ms Bradeley, an industrial officer with the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland and aged care industry veteran, said the family had not approved the mat nor been approached about how much it would cost.
They only found out when they demanded to know why their mum's care bill had more than doubled from the average $2500 a month to $5600 in January with more charges again this month.
She said her mum did not need the mat but had instead been happy with a manual alarm button if she needed help.
Ms Bradeley said while her mum, who was turning 91 next month, was a fall risk she could be relied on to use the manual buzzer when she needed help, not simply to be billed for going to the toilet.
"They didn't even tell me they were putting it in," Mrs Bradeley said.
"The mat was there. I asked how they got authority.
"I don't think she needs the mat. In aged care falls are a risk but people have falls with a mat.
"If authority was given, and you were aware of it and you have the right to say yes and she could afford that, but she would be broke in two years. What happens then?
"People need the informed choice.
"You can work with the provider, and come up with a plan that works and is affordable but don't be putting it in place and people find out by accident or when they're broke.
"Mum has had a comfortable retirement, she's 90 and she has enough money now to last her out. But she will be broke in two years if we don't stop it, or less than that."
Envigor said it would not respond to specific cases "out of respect for the individuals involved" but that "sensor mats are a key technology that has been widely used in aged care for many years to minimise the incidence of serious injury in clients assessed to be a high falls risk.
"Sensor mats are only activated at times when there is a risk of falls, ie after the client has gone to bed, and is usually disoriented when they wake during the night. In effect, a client is not billed every time they get out of bed, nor each time the sensor is activated.
"Falls presentation strategies such as sensor mats are discussed with clients/representatives as appropriate according to identified risk and need."
Council of the Ageing Queensland chief executive Mark Tucker-Evans said it was "concerning" if monitoring devices were being put in rooms without permission.
Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia chief executive Geoff Rowe said aged care residents being charged for things they didn't ask for was not uncommon.
"The aged care royal commission is handing down its report on February 26 and we certainly heard lots of examples of people talking about quality of care, of fees and charges.
"We are expecting the commissioners will make recommendations to government about fees and charges and what is appropriate."
He said while there were "brilliant providers", "unfortunately not all providers are operating in the best interests of the old person.
"That was played out in the evidence provided to the royal commission."
Queensland Minister Seniors Craig Crawford said he would be taking the issue up with the Federal Government.
"Any issue such as this is very concerning and I'll be raising concerns in the sector with my Federal counterparts," Mr Crawford said.
"Services providers should be abiding by what's set out in the Federal Government's Charter of Aged Care Rights."
Originally published as Get flushed! Granny cops $5600 bill for using toilet