Dementia care in question at SA inquest
Issues surrounding the safe care of people with dementia will be explored in an inquest into the death of an 80-year-old Adelaide man who succumbed to dehydration after going missing from a respite service during scorching weather.
Opening the inquiry into the 2017 death of John James Bentley, counsel assisting Emma Roper said the investigation would also consider the policies and procedures in place at the Southern Day Program that allowed Mr Bentley to be missing for up to an hour and a half before anyone noticed his absence.
The Alzheimer's sufferer regularly attended the program to provide some respite for his wife, but on this occasion the venue had been changed, something his family said could have caused him a degree of discomfort and agitation.
The change of venue was not known to his wife until after he was reported missing and evidence from his daughter would indicate her mother would not have allowed him to attend in such circumstances, Ms Roper said in her opening submissions on Tuesday.
Mr Bentley was last seen around the time the group sat down to watch a movie but when a transport worker arrived about 90 minutes later to take him home, he could not be found.
A search was launched, with police initially told he had been missing for about half an hour, while inquiries were also made with local bus and taxi drivers.
Ms Roper said the Friday in question was extremely hot with a top temperature in Adelaide of 39 degrees.
The search continued the following day but Mr Bentley's body was not found until Sunday night, more than three kilometres from where he went missing, after the search area was expanded.
A post-mortem ruled he died as a result of dehydration and the effects of heat
Forensic pathologist Stephen Wills regarded Mr Bentley's dementia as an indirect contributory factor.
Ms Roper said the inquest would consider whether the Southern Wellness Centre was a suitable location for the Southern Day Program with evidence on the security of the site and any steps taken to ensure the safety of participants.
"The four activity assistants will be giving oral evidence during the inquest as to policies and procedures in place relating to the supervision of the program participants," she said.
"They will also give evidence about the security of the site, and in particular, what measures were taken to prevent the program participants from simply walking out of the facility undetected."
Ms Roper said evidence would further explore whether the police were acting on accurate information about the time Mr Bentley was last seen when they calculated the area to be searched.
The inquiry is continuing.