Daughter not giving up fight for apology from council over mother's care - four years after her death

A woman says she will continue fighting for answers and an apology over the way a council handled her late mother’s care – four years on from her death.

Barbara Jameson has been in dispute with Redcar and Cleveland Council ever since the local authority secured a power of attorney over her mother Marjorie and her affairs, meaning she was eventually moved into a care home.

She claims her mother could have continued to live in her bungalow, in Marske, with support and alleges being moved to the Germaina House care home, in Redcar, where she was placed by social services, hastened her death with the 94-year-old passing away in January 2018.

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Ms Jameson, of Corby Dales Close, Saltburn, has endured a long-running legal battle with the council, which insists it is committed to high standards of care and the actions taken were in Marjorie Jameson’s best interests.

Barbara Jameson and her mother Marjorie

She says after being removed from her home and put in Germaina House in August 2013 her mother went from being a “relatively sturdy woman to someone who looked very emaciated” and described the food offered to her mother as “dreadful” with minimal portions.

She has also alleged her mother was left crying in pain on one occasion due to an urinary tract infection with a care worker labelling her as “attention seeking”

Residents had to rise at 6.30am each morning and her mother was usually in her night clothes at 6pm, against her wishes, she said.

There was a lack of stimulation or activities for residents, and while the family regularly took in books, magazines and newspapers for the pensioner to read, these would be placed out of her reach when her room was tidied.

Barbara Jameson

The care home was contacted in order to put some of the complainant’s allegations to them and offer a right-of-reply, but a member of staff said it could not discuss individual patient cases due to data protection rules.

Germaina House cares for people with physical impairment, mental health conditions and those who have a dementia type illness.

In July 2015 it was inspected by care watchdog the Care Quality Commission with two warning notices subsequently being issued in relation to staffing – specifically staffing at night, training, supervision and appraisals – and good governance in respect of quality assurance, including record keeping.

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Germania House care home

Inspectors described a lack of leadership in place and found there were not enough staff on duty at night to provide appropriate care and support to people with apprentice staff being left unsupervised.

There was also a lack of readily available choices at meal times and not always evidence of consent.

The CQC said people’s privacy and dignity was not always maintained, there was a lack of activities taking place in the home and some people spent the majority of their time in their own rooms which increased the risk of isolation to people.

However improvements were quickly made in response and two years later, in 2017, it rated as ‘good’ overall following an inspection.

The care home’s most recent inspection was in December 2019, when it again rated as ‘good’ with the CQC remarking how health professionals were very complimentary of the home with residents being very well looked after.

Ms Jameson, a grandmother and mother-of-two, said the family had been through a number of stressful years because of concerns over the care her mother previously received and their involvement with social services and the courts system.

She said: “I don’t expect any victory to come from this, but I’m not giving up either. I’m just angry at the lack of empathy and dismissive attitude we have encountered. I feel very angry about the whole thing, although it is a bit late now for my mum. The fact that her last years were in that place really still upsets me.”

Asked what she was seeking from the council, Ms Jameson said: “Just an admission that they did the wrong thing and she [her mother] could have been allowed to live at home for a while longer and would have been much happier. Definitely an apology, but it isn’t just the council, it’s the courts as well.”

The council has suggested Ms Jameson goes through its internal complaints process with an independent investigator – the Local Government Ombudsman – potentially being appointed to oversee matters.

Its assistant director of adult care, Victoria Wilson said in letters seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it had provided relevant information to Ms Jameson in line with legal frameworks in place.

She also said she did not feel it was necessary to meet.

Marjorie Jameson, who was born in Thornaby, worked in a drapers shop in Middlesbrough and during the Second World War she was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service – the women’s branch of the British Army.

She also performed in a touring dancing troupe.

She suffered from narcolepsy throughout her life – a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times – and dementia-type symptoms in her later years.

Ms Jameson said her mother had lived independently in the same bungalow in Marske, east Cleveland, since the early 1960s with her husband Bill, a civil service worker, although the couple later divorced.

She became unwell in 2011, showing early signs of dementia and spending some time in hospital.

“Social services agreed at the beginning of 2013 she could stay at home and between us we could look after her,” said Ms Jameson. “It all seemed to be going well, they were going to put in some shower adaptations and they said they’d have carers coming in a couple of times a day, although we didn’t feel at that stage we needed them.

“At that point she was fine, although we weren’t expecting her to get better. The local GP was coming in and said she was looking okay and was being well looked after.”

Ms Jameson, 68, was initially given power of attorney over her mother with her son and daughter also registered on court papers.

“Then suddenly it all changed, we were told she needed to be in a care home, there was nothing we could do about it, they [the council] were going to go to court and get the power of attorney, which they did,” she said.

“We challenged this through endless court hearings, but we never got to say as much as social services and while some judges were better than others, some barely even asked us to speak.

“Our experience in the courts was horrible and we were made to feel that we were being unreasonable and not listened to at all.”

Ms Jameson said the local authority had been worried about falls, but her mother was moved from a bungalow to the care home in Redcar and was living upstairs there on a long corridor with staircases at either end she said she could have fallen down if she’d managed to walk along.

She described Germaina House, which consists of two converted Victorian-built properties, as “very depressing” and after about six months her mother’s mobility substantially decreased.

Ms Jameson said: “She wasn’t even able to sit up in a chair without help, whereas when she was at home she could get up and had a frame to walk around and could even get outside into the garden.”

Describing the meals at the care home, she said: “They’d be literally one slice of lasagne and one slice of pasta, or one sandwich cut in half. The food was terrible and she definitely lost weight.”

Ms Jameson said she wrote letters to Germaina House as she was concerned about her mother, but claims these were ignored.

Meanwhile, the family were “going back and forward” to court to try and get her home, with an attempt at a judicial review also being refused.

“The council had control over everything, where she lived, her healthcare, her finances, her house,” she said. “The social workers would constantly say things like ‘You just want your mum at home because you want to get her house’.

“I’d never wanted to live in that house, I’d left home at 18 and been all over the place, I’d lived in Italy when I was younger and my plan was to go back and live there. However, my daughter was deeply attached to her nana and her home and regarded it as her safe place. I would have liked to have seen it as a safe place for her and her son.”

Ms Jameson said in March 2019, and following her mother’s death, the council contacted her to say the house had been sold, sending her the paperwork.

She said: “We got a statutory amount, £23,000 or £24,000 because money was needed to pay the care bills – the house hadn’t sold for a massive amount, something like £90,000.”

She recounted how her mother became distressed while living at Germaina House, would constantly ask when she was going home and threatened one time to kill herself if she didn’t get out.

“Right at the end two days before she died, I was quite shocked, she was laying in bed and shaking all over and making really horrible noises,” she said. “She was old and it was dementia, but I’d never seen her that bad, the deterioration was terrible.”

In a statement, Councillor Mary Ovens, cabinet member for adults at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “Redcar and Cleveland Council is committed to ensuring high standards of care for adults with care and support needs. Our safeguarding duty is to them and their welfare is our primary focus.

“In Majorie Jameson’s case, we agreed that residential care was in her best interests, as well as the authority’s deputyship of her property and affairs, which was ratified by the Court of Protection.

“Ms Jameson was not satisfied with her mum’s care and we can understand the distress that this has caused for her. However, all matters have been thoroughly investigated.”