Aged care royal commission: Praise for care service in Nyngan

ROYAL COMMISSION: Beth and Peter Harris. Mr Harris has praised the care workers who look after his wife.
ROYAL COMMISSION: Beth and Peter Harris. Mr Harris has praised the care workers who look after his wife.

BETH and Peter Harris' love story has stood the test of time - they've laughed, travelled the world, run a business and they've also shed more than a few tears together.

The final witness on the final day of the aged care royal commission hearing in Mudgee not only highlighted one couple's ability to get through the toughest of times, but also some positives in a very tough industry.

The interim report into the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety has detailed substandard care, neglect, challenges for people accessing home care and nurses left understaffed and burnt out.

This week 20 witnesses were called to the commission's three-day hearing in Mudgee, with Mr Harris the final witness to speak.

He told commissioners that life with his wife Beth, who he married on October 16, 1999, was "hectic, mad, fantastic".

They ran a bookshop together in Batemans Bay and the couple worked seven days a week.

We lived together and worked together 24 hours a day. We certainly had our spirited arguments but we got on really well, and life was enjoyable.

Peter Harris

"We lived together and worked together 24 hours a day. We certainly had our spirited arguments but we got on really well, and life was enjoyable," Mr Harris said.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Beth Harris has been in the high care unit at Nyngan Multi Purpose Service since August 2018.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Beth Harris has been in the high care unit at Nyngan Multi Purpose Service since August 2018.

"Other than my best friend, [she's] strong, intelligent and articulate."

Then, in 2013 Mrs Harris was diagnosed with early onset dementia.

In 2015, when she was aged 63, she was diagnosed with Parkinsonian-plus syndrome.

By then the couple had moved to Nyngan to be closer to family.

At first Mrs Harris experienced changes in speech and balance, but over time this progressed.

"That changed over a period of time from early onset dementia to corticobasal degeneration," Mr Harris said.

"Beth's basic issues are balance, dexterity, vision; all things that affect her daily life.

"One thing that hasn't [been] affected is her brain. She is non-verbal but she understands everything that's going on."

ROYAL COMMISSION: Aged care nurses are overworked and suffering from burnout, nurse adviser Prudence Dear says. Click on photo for story.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Aged care nurses are overworked and suffering from burnout, nurse adviser Prudence Dear says. Click on photo for story.

Mrs Harris' first home care package began in 2014, but from August 2018 she has been in the high care unit of the Nyngan Multi Purpose Service (MPS).

"It's given me a life and it's given Beth a life," Mr Harris said of the MPS.

"We are so lucky to have the MPS at Nyngan because ... it's a community-involved organisation."

Mr Harris said since Mr Harris had been in the MPS "the weight had been taken off".

"You feel like - the analogy is a frog in cold water, the power turned on very gently. You don't know when you're cooked. You don't know when you're finished," he said.

ROYAL COMMISSION: 'What is your problem, nothing went wrong and your mother wasn't hurt', commissioners hear. Click on photo for story.

ROYAL COMMISSION: 'What is your problem, nothing went wrong and your mother wasn't hurt', commissioners hear. Click on photo for story.

Mr Harris visits his wife every day and has nothing but praise for the MPS and its staff.

"The main reason I think I've come here today and persevered with this is that our story's a sad story, but it's also a very good story and it's a good story because of the caring community we live in, because of the MPS system we have and because of the people who work in that system," he said.

The royal commission will continue to accept submissions until April 30, 2020.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Dirt roads and a sneaky fox put an end to Sue's home care. Click on photo for story.

ROYAL COMMISSION: Dirt roads and a sneaky fox put an end to Sue's home care. Click on photo for story.

This story One couple's love story amid the aged care royal commission first appeared on Daily Liberal.