An elderly woman who froze to death while sleeping in a shipping container suffered dementia so badly that she could not feed, wash or clothe herself.
The second day of a coronial investigation into the death of Janet Mackodzi heard from medical professionals who had observed her in the 12 months leading up to her death.
Mrs Mackodzi was directed to sleep in a shipping container, which had been converted into a room on her daughter and son-in-law’s Mount Lloyd property, one night in July 2010.
Two of Michael and Jassy Anglin’s children also slept in the room the night she died.
Mrs Mackodzi’s general practitioner, Sujeewa Fernando, described the elderly woman as feeble and “severely demented”.
“I would describe her as having the cognitive capacity of a two or three-year-old,” she said.
The coronial investigation, before Olivia McTaggart, is investigating whether Mrs Mackodzi’s death presents factors of what is considered elder abuse.
As well has her care for her physical and mental health, the inquiry is examining the deterioration of Mrs Mackodzi’s finances and assets under the control of Mr and Mrs Anglin.
Dr Fernando said in her 25 years of practice, she had not witnessed a person needing such a high level of care outside of a nursing home as Mrs Mackodzi.
She repeatedly said during the hearing that it would have been “very, very difficult” for Mr and Mrs Anglin to provide adequate care to suit her condition.
Dr Fernando said assistance from nursing and community services, including permanent residential care, were ignored by the couple.
She said a general practitioner could not notify any of the required services without family consent.
Dr Fernando said Mrs Mackodzi had lost 15 kilograms in the 11 months she was in Mr and Mrs Anglin’s care, after respite at a Taroona nursing home following a spinal injury.
She was 37.9 kilograms when she died.
Royal Hobart Hospital social worker Merilyn Orr, part of the hospital’s Aged Care Assessment Team, analysed Mrs Mackodzi’s physical and mental well-being during a stay in 2009.
She found that Mrs Mackodzi was entirely dependent on having someone to feed her and keep her hydrated, and that she needed assistance with bathing and dressing.
Ms Orr said she had delirium superimposed on dementia and that around the time of her death, she would have been worse given the progressive nature of the condition.
Both Dr Fernando and Ms Orr said Mrs Mackodzi required high-level, 24-hour care.
Ms Orr said the treatment of elderly people by family members was “on the radar” of social workers and the hospital’s geriatric team.
“But it can go unnoticed as well,” Orr said.