A ‘violent’ nursing assistant put a sheet over a dementia patient’s head and told her she was ‘the dead one’ during a campaign of abuse, a court heard yesterday. Akosua Sakyiwaa, 38, had already prodded 87-year-old Joan Mussett’s breasts and told her, ‘I’m young and my breasts are better than yours’, it is alleged.
When Miss Mussett complained, Sakyiwaa pulled the bed clothes over the elderly woman’s head and reportedly said: ‘See, you’re the dead one.’ John McNally, prosecuting, said the health care assistant appeared ‘to have the confidence to ridicule the idea that anything would happen to her’, and accused her of acting ‘towards patients not as people but as things, there to inconvenience her’.
He added: ‘The proper role of a carer was apparently alien to her.’ Sakyiwaa is one of three carers accused of abusing dementia patients at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, east London. Together with Annette Jackson, 33, and Sharmila Gunda, 36, Sakyiwaa is charged with 14 counts of neglect and ill-treatment and two counts of assault against 11 patients in their care.
The patients they treated on the now-closed Beech Ward were described to the jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘elderly’ ladies, many of whom suffered from dementia.
Mr McNally described the incident in which Sakyiwaa first ‘wobbled’ her patient’s breasts before comparing them to her own and taunted her by wrapping her in a bed sheet when she complained. In another incident, Mr McNally told how Sakyiwaa told the ‘chatty’ and ‘happy’ Miss Mussett to‘shut up’ because she ‘talked too much’.
When she continued to mumble, Sakyiwaa grabbed her patient’s mouth and held it physically shut. Sakyiwaa is also charged with ill-treating Louise Hodges, 92, calling her ‘lazy’ for not moving herself to the toilet and then slapping her bottom when changing her soiled bed clothes as punishment.
When Miss Hodges complained to her on another occasion, saying ‘You nearly choked me’, Sakyiwaa’s response was, ‘Yeah, I should have.’ Jackson is charged with five counts of ill-treatment of her patients, including waking patient Kathleen Cavannagh by shouting ‘wakey, wakey, Grandma’ and smacking her in the side of her head with an incontinence pad.
The shocking behaviour of the three women came to light when they were reported by a student nurse who was appalled by what she saw on the ward during an eight-week placement in spring 2012, the court heard. Fragile women were allegedly pulled into and out of beds by their gowns, and on more than one occasion were slapped or ‘whacked’ for resisting.
Giving evidence yesterday, Lucy Brown said she was ‘speechless’ at what she saw and that she ‘tried not to think’ about what was happening on the ward. Miss Brown recalled one occasion when Sakyiwaa grabbed and painfully twisted 92-year-old Lily Oliver’s arthritic knee.
She said: ‘She was really pale and quiet and she looked at me but I looked away because I felt so bad, I couldn’t make eye contact with her.’ Paul Webb, defending Sakyiwaa, put to Miss Brown that the behaviour was simply the actions of busy staff working in difficult conditions.
But Miss Brown said: ‘I have witnessed abuse . . . you cannot smack a patient.’ Sakyiwaa, Jackson and Gunda deny all the charges against them.
The trial continues.