Family demands answers after 91-year-old dies weighing four stone
- Credit: Lisa Culbertson
A heartbroken daughter says questions need to be answered after her mum's weight fell to four stone in the seven months leading up to her death.
Lisa Culbertson, who moved from Norfolk to North Carolina in 1998, last saw her mum Jackaleen Butler, from Thetford, five years ago but spoke regularly on the phone.
She said her concerns had been going on since late 2018, but due to her mum not having a computer, it was when the family saw her on a Zoom call, while she was in West Suffolk Hospital, in December, she tried to address concerns.
She said: "The reality was that when we saw her, the first comment I made to my girls was "oh my word, she’s really thin".
Ms Culbertson estimated that when the family last saw Ms Butler she was around eight-and-a-half stone.
The 54-year-old said this led her to feel something had gone wrong in her care and contacted Norfolk County Council, reporting her mum saying carers would arrive, sign their name and "not do anything".
She said: "Surely someone must have weighed her? Somewhere along the line. I can’t be the only person that has realised that she is thin."
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Norfolk County Council is carrying out an investigation under Section 42 of the Care Act following Ms Butler's death, adding: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, when an enquiry is carried out under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014, we keep in close contact with family members and share the outcomes of these procedures.”
Ms Culbertson said the care of the elderly should be "one of respect, not neglect" and that it could not happen to anyone else.
Ms Butler, 91, from Thetford, began receiving social care support in 2018 after several falls but Ms Culbertson said at no point was any concerns by social care teams raised about her mum's weight.
Following her mum's hospitalisation in April, she was moved to Walsham Grange, in North Walsham.
Ms Culbertson, who is the youngest of Ms Butler's three children, said arriving at the home her mum was fighting for her life as her weight fell to 5st 2lbs and she required liquised food.
Ms Butler died on July 1, weighing four stone.
She was able to meet her new great-grandson Callum when the family spoke through Zoom.
Ms Culbertson said: "My mum should not have ended up at this weight that you see people in countries where they are not being fed, she should not have ended up like that.
"There was a disconnection somewhere and someone just needs to own it. I’m not saying I want them court marshalled, I just want someone to say, I made a mistake I’m really sorry.
"I understand the Covid pandemic caused issues, but the underlining issue is that the care of the elderly should be one of respect, not neglect.
"I lived in Norfolk as a child and loved this county: I call it home, but the care my mum has received is nothing but antiquated and shameful of the country that I call home."
An inquest has not been formally opened into Ms Butler's death but the family said they have raised the concerns with the coroner's office.
The family, who live 4,000 miles away, have had the heartbreaking blow of not being able to attend her funeral in person due to the quarantine restrictions they would face travelling from the US.
They have prepared a tribute and song to be played during the service. They hope to attend once restrictions are lifted.
Ms Culbertson paid tribute to her mum who she described as an amazing dressmaker and sweet lover, who worked at Dr Barnardos in Thetford.
Ms Culbertson, who is mum to Katie and Emily, said: "I was blessed to call her mum. She was at times the wind beneath my feet, the marmee from Little Women giving advice and at times like a twin sister."
She urged people to discuss deputyship and power of attorney with their loved ones, saying it made communicating with healthcare and social services difficult without one.
What is a Section 42?
Section 42 of the Care Act states that an enquiry should be carried out:
(1) where a locality authority has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult in its area (whether or not ordinarily resident there) –
a) has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs),
b) is experiencing, or is at risk of abuse or neglect, and
c) As a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it.
(2) The local authority must make (or cause to be made) whatever enquiries it thinks necessary to enable it to decide whether any action should be taken in the adult’s case (whether under this Part or otherwise) and, if so, what and by whom