“Following four years in care, they told me there was only one place my dad would be truly loved and cared for… and that’s at home with us.”
86-year-old pensioner reunited with wife after ‘living nightmare’ in care homes
Daughter, 34, juggles caring for parents with work and family life, and is due 3rd child
Campaign launched to force Government to consider making CCTV compulsory in care homes
Having seen her father’s health suffer and heartbroken at the standard of care provided to him over the past four years, Lisa Smith came to the conclusion that there was only one option left for her father – he was coming back home.
So at the age of 86, former soldier Joshua Smith, who suffers from dementia, has now been reunited with his wife of more than 50 years, Sheila, living back together in their home in Rochdale, Lancashire.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, and a focus is placed on showing love for others, this is a story of complete love and devotion.
But it is also a story of sadness, worry, anger, desperation, and frustration at the standard of care provided for the elderly in many UK homes. A lack of love and affection, respect and dignity when our loved ones get old.
The elderly couple require round-the-clock care and support – support which is so demanding that Lisa, who was juggling her own busy family life when her father’s health deteriorated four years ago, took the incredibly tough decision to put him into care.
Her mother Sheila was finding it too difficult to care for him, with the demands making her unwell, and care looked the best option for all.
Today though, Lisa describes the past four years as ‘a living nightmare’.
Having seen her father suffer what she says has been ‘diabolical treatment’ within the care system, she recently took the decision to bring him home.
Lisa, now aged 34, has two daughters herself, aged 13 and 12. She holds down a job as a care worker supporting people with mental health issues, and has a third child on the way in two months’ time.
Now to add to that, she is acting as her parents’ carers also, practically full time.
“It has been horrendous, a living nightmare from the first moment he went into care, and in the end, I just decided enough was enough and that the best option was to bring him home, as no matter how difficult it may be, at least I know he’ll be genuinely loved, cared for, and happy,” she said.
“He came home on Christmas Eve and the difference in him has been amazing. His dementia doesn’t seem to be as bad, he isn’t anxious at all, and he looks healthier than he has for years. People who see him can’t believe how well he has started to look.”
The final straw for Lisa was when her father suffered a fall in the home he was in October of last year. Despite her concerns, and suffering bruising and cuts to his head, Lisa says staff insisted he didn’t need hospital treatment.
Days later, he was found unresponsive in his room, with an ambulance having to be called. When in hospital, it was revealed to Lisa that medication to manage his anxiety had been increased substantially, a change she had been completely unaware of, and one which doctors and the home both denied responsibility for.
“I was angry that he’d had the fall, the home’s response to it, and to be told his medication had been increased without us being informed. There was no record of it in his papers, and nobody was taking responsibility. It really makes you question the care being provided.
“There has been a dispute since between doctors and the care home as to who sanctioned it, but whilst they have been blaming one another, nobody has said sorry and certainly nobody seemed to be putting my dad first.
“For me it was the final straw. Almost every week I was being called saying there had been a problem, such as he’d had a fall, that he had been pushed by another resident, or even that he was being aggressive to others in the home, which just isn’t my dad at all. It just became too much.
“You expect professional carers to be able to handle residents in these situations, and do it with care and compassion, but that wasn’t the case at all, and I just thought ‘that’s it, he’s coming out’.”
Bringing her dad home has been far from easy though.
Firstly the family had to go through a review with social services to convince them he could be cared for at home by Lisa, and a friend who has been given 20 hours’ funding to also provide care.
That move was eventually sanctioned however, and now it has become almost a full-time job for Lisa, on top of her own work, which she does two days a week.
“It’s very hard, but at least I know he is being cared for properly, as is my mum, and that it is being done with love. My dad is a different person now he is out, and he’s not taking any medication at all. My mum seems much better too,” Lisa said.
“I drop my two girls off at school, and then I head straight to my mum and dad’s and spend all day with them. I then pick my children up, and go back later on at night to do their dinners for them and see they have all they need on the night.
“My partner, Robert, who I have been with for four-and-a-half years, has been a great support, as it is tough on the whole family, but he understands why I have needed to do this to look after my dad. You have to be there for them.”
Lisa has now established a Government e-petition, calling for CCTV cameras to be compulsory in all care homes across the UK, to protect vulnerable people. (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114019)
If the petition secures 10,000 signatures, she will receive an official response from the Government. 100,000 signatures could lead to the issue being debated in Parliament.
A Facebook page, “Protect the vulnerable, install CCTV cameras now’ has also been launched to support her campaign, on which many are already sharing stories of poor care home treatment from across the UK.
She is also being supported by leading care home negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who themselves are campaigning for CCTV systems to be installed as part of their ‘Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly (LOVE) campaign.
She said: “I set up the petition because I really feel this situation has to stop. Our families, friends and loved ones deserve to receive the highest standard of care as possible while maintaining their human rights and dignity at all times. This is certainly not the case now, as can be seen through the many cases of abuse and neglect publicised. How many more cases are happening where families are simply unaware.”
Renu Daly, a specialist in handling cases of care home abuse and neglect at Hudgell Solicitors, says the firm decided to call for CCTV systems as it has handled an increasing number of cases where concerned relatives have turned to secret filming and recording, catching abuse and neglect on camera.
“We are calling for CCTV to be made compulsory in all care and residential homes across the UK, able to record footage in all areas used by residents, for the protection of both residents and the home operators themselves,” she said.
“We believe that, in light of the increasing number of care home abuse cases handled by our team of solicitors, and reported on in the national media, there is genuine evidence that such measures are needed to protect both residents and home operators.
“We feel residents and their families should be able to ‘opt out’ of filming in private rooms, but that all communal areas should be subject to 24/7 filming.
“It can only bring increased protection against abuse, both physical and mental, by care home staff or other residents, give families greater confidence when facing that daunting prospect of placing their relatives within the care industry, whilst also providing protection for care home operators and staff against false or malicious allegations of poor or abusive care.
“It is time to make a difference, and that is why we are encouraging people to sign this petition which has been established by Lisa, and put care of the elderly at the top of the agenda in Government.”