Hamilton caregiver convicted for assaulting elderly resident

By Natalie Akoorie

The Hemi family, of Hamilton, from left back, Betty and Allan. Front from left, Piri and Priscilla. Photo / Belinda Feek
The Hemi family, of Hamilton, from left back, Betty and Allan. Front from left, Piri and Priscilla. Photo / Belinda Feek

A caregiver caught on hidden camera slapping an elderly rest home resident has been convicted of assault.

Sonali Ananta Deo, 23, asked to be discharged without conviction so she could train as a nurse but Judge Kim Saunders said the offending was too serious to avoid a conviction.

Deo was caught slapping Piri Hemi, then 86, on the face and hip in June last year when he was a resident at Cascades Retirement Home in Hamilton.

The family of the victim, who died in January, were concerned when their father's happy demeanour changed, so installed a camera in his bedroom.

At Deo's sentencing in the Hamilton District Court this morning, Judge Kim Saunders watched the footage and said it was clear Hemi was an elderly and vulnerable man who had Alzheimer's, dementia, and partial blindness and hearing loss.

However she did not accept Deo's defence that her inexperience and lack of training led to her actions.

"The victim was clearly an elderly vulnerable man who required the utmost care regardless of the stage of his illness."

She said the fact Hemi did nothing to assist Deo as she tried to dress him in his bed may have explained the assault but did not excuse it.

Judge Saunders said a conviction would not prevent Deo from being accepted to Wintec to train as a nurse, or receiving Nursing Council registration. It was up to those institutions to decide.

The court heard that Deo's sister was a nurse and it was a career she aspired to.

Police opposed the application to discharge Deo without conviction, which meant she would not need to disclose the assault that she earlier pleaded guilty to when applying to study or for jobs.

Judge Saunders described the offending as moderately serious.

"He was alone. He was under your care. He was clearly vulnerable and totally reliant on you.

"Ultimately you don't need to be a registered nurse to understand that it is simply unacceptable to hit a patient in any way, shape or form."

She convicted Deo and discharged her without penalty.

Outside the court, Deo walked quickly away from media without comment.

Hemi's son and daughter-in-law Allan and Priscilla Hemi said they were pleased Deo was convicted and hoped it never happened to anyone else's family.

Allan Hemi said his father was psychologically traumatised by the assault.

"He used to cower in the shower and say 'Don't hit me, I'm dumb'."

The family took Hemi out of the rest home to live with them and said his happy personality returned before he died, aged 87, on January 5.

- NZ Herald

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