Georgie Schofield's dad was in his early 70s when he died at a Hunter aged care home four years ago.
But for the final years of his life, a royal commission has heard, Ms Schofield and her family were blocked from seeing him after a staff member half his age started a relationship with the elderly man - and she did not want his family around.
The story was just one of dozens told at a community forum in Newcastle on Wednesday as part of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
More than 20 speakers shared stories with commissioner Lynelle Briggs about how the aged care sector in the Hunter had continually let their families down.
The commission heard of elderly people being subjected to sitting in their own faeces, long waits for help after falls, poor pain management, alleged failures of management to tell families about falls or serious injuries that their relatives had sustained, thefts, sub-par hygiene standards, inedible food, long waiting lists and ignored complaints.
Ms Schofield, an aged care worker for 30 years, gave the Newcastle Herald permission to tell her story.
She told the commission that soon after she placed her father into a home as a high care patient in 2007, staff members informed her that her father was in a "relationship" with an employee at the home who was roughly 35 years his junior.
Ms Schofield and her brother met with management to complain, but she told the commission no action was taken.
"We told them we were shocked and appalled by what had been allowed to happen and we wanted the staff member terminated and my father protected from this unethical financial and mental abuse," she said.
"He was there to be cared for, not taken advantage of."
Soon, Ms Schofield said, the staff member obtained his power of attorney, enduring guardianship and changed his will. She eventually resigned from the home.
Ms Schofield said the home blocked the family from seeing her father, at the request of the woman, and they were not officially notified when he died. His possessions were taken by the woman, Ms Schofield said, and the bond paid to get him a place at the home was given to her, leaving Ms Schofield and her husband Michael out of pocket.
"We felt helpless and when we sought help from the aged care complaints [body], we were told there was nothing they could do," Ms Schofield said.
"Legal help, it was too expensive as I had to take on the major company.
"We are left with nothing but feelings of helplessness, anger and still suffer mentally to this day. We were let down by the system."
Some speakers at the forum suggested ways to improve the sector, including measures such as an enforceable code of operating standards, a register for workers who mistreat elderly people in care, higher training standards for staff and a top-down review of culture.
Michelle Cashman, a registered nurse with 41 years experience, told the Newcastle Herald she was not surprised at the stories the commission heard.
"I see those things and worse," she said. "Staff are too scared to speak because of recriminations - families get it - but I'm telling you, the staff cop it even worse, it's horrific."
Ms Cashman said she believed better training standards needed to be introduced for aged care workers and more qualified nurses should be employed at homes.
"A lot of the staff in the facilities now are not qualified," she said. "It's a lot cheaper for the owner to have an unqualified staff member or two than to have a qualified staff member."
Health and aged care lawyer Catherine Henry told the commission she believed Australia needed a new Aged Care Act, which "ensures transparency and accountability" as well as the introduction of an independent tribunal to hear complaints about inadequate care.
"There are clear benefits of common law litigation in maintaining professional standards in the aged care industry," she said.
"In my experience, the families of residents are not so much concerned with the level of compensation as sending an effective message to the system that has failed to meet community expectations and to provide a reasonable level of care to one of society's most vulnerable groups."
Federal Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said she was "shocked and appalled" at what has come out of the commission's forums and hearings.
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