A care home can undoubtedly be a safe and nurturing environment, reducing the risks and isolation which independent living can bring to more vulnerable elderly people.
A good care home should not be judged by its furnishings or décor (although often this can be important to many), but instead by the staff and the quality of care, respect and dignity they provide to their residents.
The vast majority of care homes will provide good or even excellent standards of care, even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so given the resource restraints which we constantly hear about in the media. The Care Quality Commission (the regulator for the health and care sector) has recorded that 1% of care homes across the country are outstanding and 73.3% are good, however approximately 4,000 care homes require improvement or provide inadequate care.
Poor treatment and abuse of elderly residents is on the rise
Unfortunately there are increasing and well publicised incidences of poor treatment and abuse of elderly residents which can be devastating for the individual and their family. Around 40,000 safeguarding referrals were made in relation to residential and nursing homes in the year 2015 – 2016.
The leading charity Action on Elder Abuse defines abuse as a “single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to the older person”.
Abuse can take different forms
According to the Department of Health abuse can take six different forms:
- Physical – hitting, pushing, being handled roughly, restrained or deprived of basic needs;
- Psychological – humiliation and intimidation as well as threats, exclusion and harassment;
- Neglect – ignoring care needs and withholding food, warmth and access to medication;
- Discrimination – racism, sexism, abuse based on disability, slurs and derogatory comments;
- Sexual – acts of any kind that have not been consented to or could not be consented to;
- Financial – theft, exploitation, misuse of funds and pressurised financial transactions.
Steps you can take if you suspect abuse of an elderly person
If you suspect an elderly person you care about may be suffering from abuse within a care home setting, it is important that you take early action to prevent any abuse from escalating.
The following steps should be taken:
- If your concerns are very urgent you should immediately contact your Local Authority’s safeguarding team, who will take immediate steps to investigate your concerns. The number will be found in the Adult Services section of their website.
- If you are concerned that a crime has been committed you should also contact the police.
- If your concern is not urgent and does not involve criminal behaviour, then discuss the matter with the relevant care provider. By law all care providers must have procedures for dealing with complaints and should encourage people to provide feedback to them in order to improve their service. Speak directly to the registered manager. You may also wish to raise the issue with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and should refer to their leaflet on complaining.
Use of covert surveillance equipment to uncover abuse
Increasingly the media is reporting upon incidences of abuse which have been uncovered through use of covert surveillance equipment – hidden cameras – by families. Using this equipment is a big step to take and should not be taken lightly. Whilst it can be very effective at revealing abuse, it does intrude upon other people’s privacy and may leave you open to potential legal action for breach of data protection and human rights laws. Furthermore, installing covert surveillance equipment could be a breach of the care provider’s contract of service and could jeopardise the older person’s placement.
The CQC have produced a very helpful guide on the use of hidden cameras which you should take time to read if you are considering this step.
At SAS Daniels we have a specialist Elderly Client team who can provide you with advice regarding any concerns you may have about the care an older person is receiving, or incidences of potential abuse. We can assist you in considering what further steps to take to protect the person and also any further action which you may wish to consider against a care provider who has failed to comply with their responsibilities to ensure the safety of the older person.