Hong Kong

Caregiver jailed for assaulting elderly patient

By Timothy Chui (HK Edition)
Updated: 2009-12-30 07:36
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HONG KONG: The former head caregiver at a seniors' care facility will spend six months in jail, after being convicted of assault on an elderly women suffering from Alzheimer's.

Formerly employed at Ku Tung's Southern Centre for the Aged, 50-year-old Chan Sau-kuen was handed the six-month sentence for four counts of common assault which carries a maximum sentence of four years.

According to court testimony by one of Chan's former co-workers, Chan swore at 65-year-old Pang Sin-mui after she became incontinent on September 25 last year.

She said Pang, who also suffers from dementia, was holding her own feces and had smeared it on herself and her bed.

Chan then took Pang's soiled hand and forced it into Pang's mouth for five seconds, the witness said.

She said management had told her to mind her own business after she lodged a complaint.

In another incident on May 13 this year, the witness said Chan swore at Pang and slapped her in the face after Pang had spilled some soup while two other coworkers said Chan verbally and physically abused Pang in March this year and April of last year.

Standing somberly and holding her hands while in the dock, Chan heard the sentence that was imposed along with a HK$3,000 fine. Six of her family members looked on from the public gallery.

Her lawyer, Wilson Yeung Shu-lam, presented the court with character references from friends and family as well as from Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Yuen Long District Councilor Kwok Keung prior to sentencing.

In handing down his judgment at the Fanling Magistrate Court yesterday, Magistrate Symon Wong Yu-wing made no mention of the character references and said Chan had betrayed the trust of her post and had taken advantage of a helpless person.

Calling her actions "disgusting and unethical", Wong said the sentence was to serve as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.

The center's director, who gave his name only as Cheng, said Chan had been fired from her post earlier this month.

According to the center's website, it provides more than 200 places and has a staff of 70.

During her trial, Chan had maintained she was set up by co-workers. She remained unmoved as magistrate Wong said her actions were "despicable and forbidden by heaven and earth" after finding her guilty earlier this month.

Chairman of the not-for-profit Alzheimer's Disease Association of Hong Kong Wu Yee-ming said the punishment was fair given the level of abuse but acknowledged caregivers were frequently under stress working at care homes.

"To be fair to caregivers, they are under stress and dealing with Alzheimer's patients can be difficult," he said.

Wu said the frustrations, stress and misunderstandings along with a lack of skills, knowledge or emotional support could lead to more abuse, adding Alzheimer's patients are especially susceptible to abuse because they do not have the mental capacity to say no.

(HK Edition 12/30/2009 page1)