We all have moments of frustration, and we all make mistakes, but there’s a limit to how far you can allow your emotions to carry you before your behavior becomes abusive.
Gary Scott Anderson, a 62-year-old nurse at Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide, “lost his cool” recently when an 87-year-old dementia patient in his care refused to cooperate with him.
It all started when Anderson tried to redirect the senior woman down the hallway “using some physical force.” The woman refused to go the direction he wanted her to and grabbed onto a handrail. Anderson tried to remove her hands from the rail, at which point she slid to the floor. He then dragged her by either the wrists or the forearms for about 30 feet.
“(He) then dragged the patient by her arms or wrists … for a distance of approximately 10 meters,” a published judgment declared. “He did so against the patient’s will and regardless of her protests and screams for help.”
After the incident, the patient, who is quite frail, was found to be distressed and crying, as well as complaining of sore wrists.
The South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that Anderson had had a “difficult day on the ward” but that his actions were inappropriate and “totally unnecessary.” In the absence of any danger or other serious motivation, there was no reason for such force to be used on the elderly woman.
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Anderson was suspended with pay for a period of time before being terminated by the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN). Prior to the incident, he had worked for them at Flinders Medical Centre for 25 years, even training staff on the proper management of aggressive or threatening behavior from clients.
The tribunal recognized that Anderson had recently been diagnosed with and begun treatment for aggressive prostate cancer, which may partially explain his behavior but does not excuse it.
Anderson held an unblemished record before the incident, but the tribunal categorized his actions as “severe professional misconduct” worthy of his being let go from the position. He has not served as a nurse since.
Anderson will also be required to pay $2,000 towards the cost of the proceedings and take an educational course to help him correct his behavior.
It is of the utmost importance that we protect the frailest members of our society with all the tools in our power. If you have any reason to believe that an elderly person you know may be being abused, do not be afraid to report it to the proper authorities.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?