Woman died amid 'terrible failure' of aged care system

An elderly woman was left to suffer fatal neglect on a couch until the fabric's pattern was imprinted in her wounds, a judge has heard.

Julie Lynette Delaney, 61, pleaded guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday to the domestic violence manslaughter of her elderly mother.

Noelene Delaney died at their home in the Gold Coast suburb of Pimpama in September 2020.

"I'm so remorseful for what I have done, very remorseful," Delaney said.

Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco said Delaney was the primary caregiver for the 82-year-old, but had been neglecting her, leaving her to lie in squalid conditions that brought on malnutrition and fatal infections.

"She must have suffered terribly before her death," Ms Marco said.

Justice Melanie Hindman was shown photos of the more than 50 ulcers and necrotic pressure wounds on the mother's body.

"The pattern of the couch's fabric was imprinted into one of the ulcers," Ms Marco said.

Justice Hindman said Delaney's mental health significantly impaired her reasoning, but health and social workers had placed the mother in her care and later missed opportunities to intervene.

"This was a terrible failure of the system that wasn't recognised at the time," Justice Hindman said.

Delaney's mother was taken to hospital in July 2019 after suffering a fall and was diagnosed with numerous health issues.

Ms Marco said Delaney attended a meeting at the hospital with a social worker, a physiotherapist and a doctor, who advised that the mother would require 24-hour support.

"(Delaney) confirmed she would be willing to provide the recommended level of support at home," Ms Marco said.

BlueCare and a Gold Coast University Hospital nurse attempted to contact Delaney multiple times to set up the mother to receive home assistance and physical therapy.

Delaney did not answer calls or return messages and letters.

Delaney's son called an ambulance on September 18, 2020, after attending the home in response to texts from Delaney, finding the 82-year-old unresponsive.

Paramedics attempted to move her to an ambulance but she suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

Police described the house as having a "strong putrid odour" and spotted Delaney trying to conceal a soiled blanket.

"I know I did a sh***y job. There's no way I would harm her," Delaney told police.

Delaney's barrister said her client had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 21 and never had employment.

"Clearly she did not engage the medical help she should have ... in her impaired state," the barrister said.

The barrister said Delaney was now in 24-hour residential care and did volunteer work for her rehabilitation.

Justice Hindman told Delaney the circumstances of her offending were tragic and horrible as the mother had cared for her and her son until developing Alzheimer's disease.

"Your mother's condition deteriorated. She was clearly not looked after in the way elderly people deserve to be taken care of," the judge said.

Delaney was sentenced to five years' imprisonment that was wholly suspended and she was allowed to walk free from court.

Justice Hindman said her sentence might be seen as lenient but putting Delaney in custody would interrupt her health treatments.

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