How is it happening, why is it being allowed to happen and why isn’t it being stopped?
Instances of neglect and poor care of vulnerable and elderly people in care homes are continuing to rise, so much so that we are now told that more than 100 people are suffering serious injuries every day.
Families turn to care homes when they are looking for greater protection and specialised round the clock care for their loved ones.
They don’t expect homes with five-star hotel standards, but simply want their relatives to be loved, respected, protected and cared for with dignity.
They certainly don’t expect them to suffer broken bones, infected pressure sores and burns, Sadly, as specialists in handling cases of care home neglect and abuse, our team at Hudgell Solicitors see such injuries on a regular basis, and the vast majority are completely avoidable with basis standards of care.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) says cases have risen by 40% in five years. There were 26,779 notifications of serious injury for every care home in England in 2012, but last year it had reached 38,676.
The CQC does stress that it has encouraged care homes to ensure accurate serious injury notifications are filed, which has contributed to the rise, but the figures nonetheless paint a shocking picture as to the overall standards of care.
Accidents and injuries can happen, but has everything been done to prevent them?
Of course, the elderly and frail are more prone to accidents and falls, but this does not mean that they should be expected or accepted. It points to the need for more injury prevention measures and detailed care plans being put in place.
In most cases, failure to follow procedure, or ensure staff are fully trained, contributes to serious injuries being suffered.
When a new resident is admitted to a care home their vulnerability to falling, and developing problems such as pressure sores due to a lack of movement, should be assessed and an appropriate care plan developed and followed to the letter.
All too often we see pressure sore injuries (the vast majority of which are avoidable) which have been allowed to develop by not identifying the right mattresses and failing to ensuring regular turning, whilst we see many falls causing serious injury which could have been avoided with closer care and attention to detail.
Quite rightly, care homes are being prosecuted by the CQC for the most serious incidents, and in one case in which we represented the family of an elderly woman who suffered burns when falling against an uncovered radiator, the home operator was fined £24,600.
In another case, a West Yorkshire care home provider was fined £190,000 after a resident broke his neck and died in a fall from a shower chair. Dementia sufferer Brian Wright, 81, fell from the third floor of the Victoria Care Centre in Acton, west London. He was able to open a window despite staff knowing he was at risk of trying to jump from the building.
In another case, Alzheimer’s sufferer Robert Davidson, 79, died after choking on a plastic glove at Aran Court Care Home in Birmingham. An inquest heard staff had not been trained to call an ambulance and the carer involved did not realise it was necessary to dial 9 for an outside line and had received no training on when to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
They are shocking accounts of woeful care.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult care at the CQC, has been quick to say that all is being done to make services as safe as possible, and that inspections show most care homes are providing good, safe care.
But sadly there are far too many failing, putting the elderly at risk, and quite simply not treating them with the love, care, respect and dignity they deserve.
It is therefore no surprise that people appear increasingly reluctant to put their loved ones in care, despite this often putting greater pressure on their own busy home lives.
With that in mind, we produced the following advice for anybody considering putting their loved one into a care home, and spotting potential signs of abuse.