A 95-year-old great-grandmother with dementia who was tasered by a police officer at a NSW aged care home is peaceful and comfortable as she receives end-of-life care.
Clare Nowland remains at Cooma District Hospital surrounded by her distraught family after she was critically injured when she was tasered last Wednesday morning.
Priest Father Mark Croker visited Mrs Nowland on Sunday and held a Catholic mass at her hospital bedside.
A mass dedicated to Mrs. Nowland was also held at the local St. Patrick’s church, where she was previously an active member of the parish and local community.
“She looks peaceful, she’s unconscious, but she sure looks comfortable,” Father Croker said The Daily Telegraph.
Body-worn video shows demented Clare Nowland (pictured) walking slowly with her eyes on the officer before she was tasered and fell backwards
Father Croker also recalled his most recent conversation with Mrs. Nowland a week earlier, when she was in hospital with a mild illness.
She was knitting to pass the time and, according to the priest, was in very good shape.
“The thing about Clare is that the dementia wasn’t quite set in yet, you could still have a conversation with her… she might get a little confused, but that’s an age thing.”
It is clear that she was unconscious and that her eight children and their families took turns talking to her.
“They’re a big family, so they come in and out … but they talk to Clare, they say your hearing is the last of your senses, so we know she can hear us,” Father Croker said.
Staff at Yallambee Lodge nursing home called police early Wednesday morning after Ms Nowland, who suffers from dementia, weighs 100 lbs and uses a walker, carried a serrated steak knife from the kitchen into a small treatment room.
Police and ambulance officers tried to get her to drop the knife before a senior officer fired his taser once as she slowly approached them, Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter said Friday.
She fell and her head hit the ground.
The officer who fired the electric shock weapon joined the force 12 years ago and has been taken off active duty.
The critical incident investigation has been elevated to ‘level one’ because Ms Nowland suffered an injury that could lead to her death.
Detectives from the State Homicide Squad and Law Enforcement Conduct Commission are investigating what happened and whether the forced use was appropriate.
Clare Nowland is surrounded by her family as she receives end-of-life care at Cooma Hospital
It is revealed that Ms Nowland was missing an hour before the tragedy happened at Yallambee Lodge (pictured) in Cooma in southern NSW
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb declined to comment on the possibility of charges being brought.
“The best detectives in NSW are on this case,” she said.
“I have every confidence that it will be handled properly.”
Commissioner Webb said it was not customary for police to go to a nursing home to assist staff with their residents.
“In my experience, it’s quite rare that we get called into a nursing home,” she said. “It’s not something we come across on a regular basis.”
Commissioner Webb – whose own mother suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home – also sparked anger when she said she had no intention of viewing body-worn CCTV footage of the incident.
“I don’t really plan to, no,” she told reporters. “I’ve heard what’s carried in the body, and I don’t think it’s necessary for me to actually look at it.”
Andrew Thaler, a spokesman for Ms Nowland’s family, told the Daily Mail Australia on Saturday evening that the commissioner has an ‘obligation’ to review the footage.
“I don’t accept that she doesn’t have to, the responsibility stops with her,” he said.
“She can’t hide, she has to stand up and take responsibility and make sure the community and family get answers. The whole situation is so blatant.”
On behalf of the family, he said they wanted the commissioner to review bodycam footage of the incident involving Ms Nowland’s family.
According to a local priest, Clare Nowland (pictured skydiving) is peaceful and comfortable
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb first sparked outrage on Saturday after claiming it was ‘not necessary’ to view bodycam footage of the incident
According to police guidelines, an officer may use a stun gun when violent resistance occurs or is imminent, or when an officer is in danger of being overpowered.
But the guidelines also list a range of situations where a taser should not be used “unless there are exceptional circumstances.”
These include using the weapon on an elderly or disabled person, or on a person of particularly small body weight.
Police initially described the incident as “an interaction” between officers and Ms Nowland, but Ms Webb stressed on Friday that police understood the seriousness of the situation.
Josh Pallas, chair of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said police should not use Tasers on vulnerable people with dementia or a mental health crisis.
The incident was a tragic example of the need for healthcare workers to undergo mandatory training in dementia care, Dementia Australia said.
“We have received calls and emails from people living with dementia, their families and carers expressing their anger and sadness for Ms. Nowland and her family.”
The Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which runs Yallambee Lodge, said staff followed the procedure and support was provided to them and residents.
Ms Nowland’s family are now demanding answers to what happened last Wednesday at Yallambee Lodge nursing home (pictured)