Richard Handley died of complications from constipation in November 2012, and his inquest concluded last week.
Supported living is defined as persons with disabilities living where and with whom they want, for as long as they want, with the ongoing support needed to sustain that choice.” No part of this definition implies that someone’s care should be of a lower standard than when living in a registered home. Yet, this reduction in care is what happened to Richard Handley, and is something that undoubtedly contributed to his death.
There were so many opportunities to save Richard, and yet these were tragically missed. So much of Richard’s story appears to be about communication, and aside from his loving family, people not really knowing him. For example, his medication was changed to include one with a side-effect of constipation, his diet and bowel movements were not monitored as needed for his well-being, and his key worker was unaware of his bowel condition. Once in hospital, monitoring was not effective.
That someone could die from constipation in this day and age is upsetting and difficult to comprehend. That the coroner said “…Without the diligence and persistence of (the family), many of the reviews into Richard’s death would not have occurred…” is deeply troubling.
LDE will continue to work with all sections of the learning disability community to ensure that people get the support they want and need.
For support to be effective, it has to be delivered by people who know the person well, and have the information they need.
We know that the agencies involved have already learned from Richard’s appalling death, but we hope that anyone offering care and support is asking themselves, “Could this happen on my watch?”.