St Helens care worker jailed after lying about visits and neglecting pensioner who later died

Maya James was jailed for neglect.
Miya James was supposed to support the pensioner, who had mobility issues and lived on her own. Her duties included bringing her food and seeing to her personal care. Credit: Merseyside Police

A care worker has been jailed after pretending she had made her regular welfare visits to an elderly woman - who later died in conditions described as "an utter disgrace".

Miya James, 25, was supposed to attend the home of the 71-year-old woman but failed to complete three of the four visits assigned to her across a two-day period in January 2021.

Instead she falsely logged her attendance on the care company's system.

The pensioner, who was suffering from Covid-19, had recently been discharged from Whiston Hospital and suffered from mobility problems which meant she could not come downstairs.

She relied on the support of her carer, whose duties included bringing her food and seeing to her personal care.

But, she was later found dead in her bedroom on 25 January by a family member.

James of Fell Grove, St Helens, was jailed for eight months at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting wilful neglect. 

Prosecuting barrister Stella Hayden told the court the 71-year-old woman had been in Whiston Hospital for eight weeks, after suffering from a number of illnesses - including cardiac failure.

She was discharged on 7 January 2021 and returned to her home in St Helens, where she lived alone.

St Helens Council provided care for her before care provider Yes Care took over on January 20.

The woman's close friends and family members, including her cousin, would also attend her home and assist with looking after her.

However, she tested positive for Covid-19 on 15 January and family members who had been in close contact with her had to self-isolate until January 25.

Yes Care was to continue providing three visits a day to her house - in the morning, afternoon and evening, to provide duties such as washing, providing fluids and meals. Meals and drinks had to be delivered upstairs due to the woman's lack of mobility.

Yes Care employee James was meant to attend the morning and lunchtime visits on both 24 January and 25 January. She did not attend the afternoon visit on 24 January.

Another member of Yes Care staff attended the evening visit at around 8.50pm on 24 January and found the woman in a state of undress, with her bedroom drawers pulled out and the contents all over the floor.

She also saw human waste on the stairs and raised concerns with Yes Care as a result.

James, who is the mum of a young boy, then did not attend either of her scheduled visits on 25 January.

However, she falsely logged attendance in the morning on the company's system. The woman's family were not able to check on her in person at this time, due to their self-isolation.

The woman's cousin's self-isolation ended on 25 January, so she went to the house to check on her.

At around midday, she found the woman unresponsive and cold in her home. She was later pronounced dead, with the cause of death given as Covid-19.

Miss Hayden told the court James, who had worked as a carer since September 2020, told a colleague she had not attended the morning visit because she overslept.

Despite that, she logged her attendance with the company. She was later arrested and charged with wilful neglect.

In a statement read to the court by Miss Hayden, the woman's cousin said the scene she found at the home on 25 January was "like something out of a horror movie".

She said the usually tidy kitchen was incredibly messy, while the food she had bought before her isolation remained unused, apart from some milk.

She added the woman's sleep apnoea machine, which was required upstairs in her bedroom, was downstairs, covered in excrement.

She said her cousin was a "hard-working, well liked member of the community", but she spent her final week alone in conditions that were "an utter disgrace".

In mitigation, Paul Lewis said James said she had not been able to find the woman's care plan on her work app. James also said she had received very little formal training.

In an interview, James said when she attended the home on January 24, the woman did not allow her upstairs and she was not made aware of her mobility issues.

However, Mr Lewis accepted James should have been able to know what she was supposed to do. He said: "She didn't turn up to deal with a vulnerable lady who had been discharged from Whiston Hospital."

James also claimed she quit the job at Yes Care on January 24, but the court heard she had only sent an email saying she was thinking of quitting and would have been required to work a notice period anyway.

Sentencing, Judge David Hale told James: "You were due to visit on January 24 in the morning and the afternoon and provide basic care. It (a care plan) should have been available to you to see exactly what care you should have been giving."

He said there was a discrepancy regarding whether James had been given a care plan or not, but told her she should have given basic care, such as cleaning and providing food and water "to this poor lady who had Covid".

The judge added: "But you didn't go. She was visited by someone else in the evening. How she left her is by no means clear.

"The next morning - the day she died - you should have gone again. You didn't go but you made entries to indicate you had been. You didn't quit. You did not go on January 25.

"One of your motivations was to be paid for going on January 25. That makes it a real sin of omission".

He added there was no suggestion that James could have prevented the woman's death. However, he added: "You just made it worse and deprived her the possibility of some comfort in death."

The judge added: "It is a job you volunteered to take" and told James: "You knew you had a responsibility."

Judge Hale told James: "Neglect of this gravity does require a custodial sentence" and jailed her for eight months. He added: "What's involved in caring is not just getting a wage, it's looking after the people you say you will."

Detective Constable Alexandra Lawrence of Merseyside Police, said: “This was clearly a very tragic case in which a vulnerable elderly lady was left without care and died alone.

 “The lady and her family were self-isolating due to Covid at the time and she was obviously totally reliant on her carers."James was the person given responsibility for looking after her but failed in her most basic duties.  

“Although nothing can change what has happened I hope that the sentencing of James by the courts provides the family with some justice and allows them to move on and grieve their loss.”