Glen Hardwick had an everlasting connection with people he met, but was “let down” by his group home.
- Glen Hardwick’s family has given evidence at the disability royal commission
- The inquiry is examining the use of psychotropic drugs such as anti-depressants and mood stabilisers
- Mr Hardwick was taken off the medication he was on after her sister raised concerns about his state
His sister Rose Atherton has given evidence at the disability royal commission about the care her younger brother received while living in regional Victoria.
Mr Hardwick lived with an intellectual disability and resided in the supported accommodation from 2013.
He died in December, aged 37, following an allergic reaction after open-heart surgery.
“He got treated as an outcast by the [group home] and staff members that were supposed to be supporting him,” Mrs Atherton said.
“I am doing this for him and also for all the other people who can’t speak up or have no voice.”
The inquiry is examining the use of psychotropic drugs such as anti-depressants and mood stabilisers to influence the behaviour and emotions of people with disability.
Mrs Atherton told the hearing Mr Hardwick loved window shopping and joking around with people, but it was clear all was not well with her brother when he arrived at a Christmas gathering in 2017 and “looked like a zombie”.
It was at that point Mrs Atherton realised her brother’s medication now included more than the Ritalin he had always taken for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“There was no facial expression, he was dribbling and he wasn’t interacting with the dogs, which he normally loved, ” she said.
“He just looked like an old man and everyone actually commented that day, ‘What’s wrong with Glen?'”
Staff from the group home had been accompanying Mr Hardwick to his medical appointments.
Mrs Atherton raised her concerns with his psychiatrist, external to the group home, and he was taken off the medication.
The inquiry heard Mr Hardwick could not access support and funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) because he was not an Australian citizen.
Born and raised in New Zealand, he moved to Australia in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquake.
Mrs Atherton told the commission she engaged a migration agent to assist her brother to become an Australian citizen, but his application was denied due to his disability.
‘At one stage he packed his whole room’
The inquiry also heard staff in group homes needed better training and support to manage challenging behaviours in people living with disability.
“Staff in group homes need to treat clients with compassion, dignity, empathy and respect like they would their own loved ones,” Mrs Atherton said.
The commission heard Mr Hardwick became unhappy while living in the supported accommodation and “clashed” with other residents.
“At one stage he packed his whole room and he actually wanted to move out,” Mrs Atherton said.
Mr Hardwick spent time in respite care before a new home was found for him.
He was only there briefly before his heart surgery.
Mrs Atherton wants the commission to look at the qualifications of staff in supported accommodation.
“They need to have greater resources to assist the voices of people like Glen to be heard,” she said.
“Human rights of clients need to be upheld and not forgotten.”