The severely decomposed bodies of a 74-year-old woman and her 54-year-old son were found in their Dubbo home in early 2016, an inquest has heard.
A 74-year-old woman whose body was found at her NSW central west home alongside her 54-year-old son had checked herself out of hospital against doctors’ advice months earlier.
The two bodies were severely decomposed when they were discovered on March 9, 2015, making it impossible to tell a cause or exact date of death, an inquest into the pair’s deaths heard on Monday.
The pair had no close relatives, and the son was his mother’s carer – a ‘challenging task’ because of her high needs, counsel assisting the inquest, Elizabeth Raper SC, said in her opening submissions.
The mother and son are both believed to have died at the same time
There was no sign of trauma on either body, nor indication of suicide, pathologist Jane Vuletic, who conducted the post-mortem, said.
They had likely been dead for a week or more by the time they were found in their Dubbo home.
The bodies were equally decomposed, suggesting they died around the same time.
The mother had been hospitalised in June 2015 then checked herself out against medical advice on July 8.
She was severely underweight and incontinent and had bedsores. When an ambulance came to take her to hospital, she was lying in her own faeces and urine, and the home was unkempt.
Both the mother and son had a history of heavy drinking. She could not do basic tasks required to take care of herself and doctors were concerned about neglect.
Despite these concerns, the hospital decided she had capacity to decide to leave the hospital.
For the last few months of their lives, nobody checked on the pair despite serious concerns for the woman’s welfare.
Ms Raper said the inquest would examine who, if anyone, is responsible for the care of older people where they are found to have capacity to make decisions, but there are still serious concerns for their safety.
Both were both severely decomposed meaning it was impossible to determine a cause and time of death
When a nurse visited the house in September 2015, the son refused them entry.
‘She’ll be happy to see you tomorrow, there’s too much going on, too much intervention and we want to be left alone,’ he told them, according to Ms Raper.
Other nurses failed to gain access to the woman around the same time.
The public guardian was then appointed the mother’s custodian for three months, but never made contact with the family.
After the guardianship ended in January 2016, nobody from a nursing organisation that had previously had care of her, the public guardian, or the Dubbo hospital she had been admitted to contacted the mother.
The last phone calls made from the house were made on February 16, 2016 to a Chinese restaurant and a taxi company.
The son was ‘dedicated’ to his mother but obviously struggled with the burdens of caring for her, Ms Raper said.
The two cannot be named for legal reasons.
The inquest continues.