A Caring Society?

It must never happen again says widow

Locked up in a care home against his will, Kenneth Jowsey died a 'broken man'

PAT JOWSEY, 68, is struggling to keep alive the memory of her late husband, who spent tragic months forcibly separated from his wife as a virtual 'prisoner' in a private nursing home. Ken Jowsey voluntarily entered the home in Camborne for respite care, paid for by Cornwall County Council, after suffering recurring bouts of anxiety. When he attempted to leave after a few weeks the Council imposed a Guardianship Order under the Mental Health Act.

Although their action was illegal, Mr. Jowsey, a former BT engineer, postman and UNITE member from Truro, was held against his will for four months, during which time he was assaulted by a staff member. His wife says he never recovered and died 'a broken man' less than a year later. He was 70 years old.

The County Council has refused to accept liability but has paid her £5,000 in damages in an out-of-court settlement.

The experience has changed her life. `I'd always believed people in authority were more important than the rest of us; they know best...don't make a fuss.

`But it is about control and management. If they can't cure you, they will control you. They couldn't cure Ken so they locked him up. It was the cruelest thing they could do to a proud, loving, caring man who never did anyone any harm.

`I complained and they tried to control and manage me.

`Now I want to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else.' she says.

This January - after months of waiting - Mrs. Jowsey finally received her husband's medical notes, reports and records of meetings of care workers involved in his case, after an application under the Freedom of Information Act.

They make disturbing reading.

She's discovered care workers discussed the possibility of displacing her as her husband's next of kin, suggesting she was guilty of causing him 'emotional abuse'.

Their 'evidence'? 'He used to get distressed after I visited him,' she says. 'He was upset when I went and he would cry at night because he missed me. Is that emotional abuse? It broke my heart when I heard.' The files show officials rejected the idea because of the difficulty of proving a case in court.

When she asked a care worker during one visit if she and her husband could leave the home to go for a cup of coffee, a note was added to his file that the couple wanted to leave the building – ‘as if an escape bid had been thwarted'.

On one visit, overwhelmed with worry and frustration, Pat blurted out: 'Oh my God, I feel like running away'. Another entry was made in the care home log claiming she was planning to abscond.

She was forbidden to see her husband in private. Visits were strictly supervised. They were not allowed into the garden on their own. On one occasion the couple found an empty room and sat down to watch television. They'd hardly settled when the door opened and a nurse and one of the home's directors entered and ordered them out, she says. 'It was humiliating. They walked behind us along the corridor until we got to the main room where there were up to 40 other patients, some with serious dementia, crying, howling and throwing tea around'.

'I thought their refusal to allow us some privacy was inhuman.'

She is still waiting for an explanation from the nursing home.

'If what happened to Ken happened to a child, or a prisoner, or an illegal immigrant, there would have been an inquiry and someone would have been held accountable. But when you are merely old you don't seem to matter anymore. Old people have no rights. Old people are powerless.'

If you know of anyone who has had a similarly distressing experience write to us at this address:
Unite, Unit 6 Imperial Court, Laporte Way, Luton. LU4 8FE

An extract from: ‘Unite’, Issue 362, Post Office Worker’s Magazine

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