Hudgell Solicitors has today re-ignited its Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly Campaign (LOVE) calling for them to be loved, respected, protected and afforded their dignity at all times when in any form of health care.
Marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Friday, June 15), it comes as we see far too many cases where elderly and vulnerable people are stripped of their dignity in hospitals and care homes.
Over the coming 12 months, as part of our campaign and under the strapline ‘Give Me Dignity’, we will;
- Highlight cases in which appalling and avoidable healthcare failings are made which deny the elderly their dignity, at times when they are at their most vulnerable.
- Encourage and advise families to question and, if needed, challenge the care their loved ones receive in hospitals and care homes.
- Provide advice and guidance for relatives on how best to look out for their loved ones when taken into hospital or care home environments,
- Continue to support families by righting wrongs and challenging poor care, neglect and abuse through our legal expertise.
Vince Shore, joint head of clinical negligence at the firm, is heading up the campaign.
He says it comes as the firm’s specialists in offices across Hull, Leeds and London are handling an increasing number of cases where hospital patients and care home residents are neglected.
These have included cases where avoidable pressure sores have been allowed to develop and become so bad that they have broken through the skin and to the patient’s bone, becoming infected and causing significant pain and discomfort.
Other examples of poor care have included hospitals and care providers not maintaining ‘the most basic general health standards’, including failing to provide dental care and failing to establish and follow ‘minimum standard’ care plans aimed at reducing the risk of falls and injury, or to follow specific dietary requirements.
Mr Shore describes the poor care of the elderly and vulnerable as ‘possibly the most harrowing and heartbreaking failures of the health system’. He added:
“Over the past few years as a firm we have campaigned the elderly to be loved, protected, respected and afforded their dignity in care, and over the coming 12 months we are placing a focus on the dignity which is afforded, or too often not afforded, to the elderly.
“It really is quite an appalling situation and quite shocking that the elderly and vulnerable people in our society are treated so poorly, so often. We see so many cases where, in effect, they are the forgotten people.
“These are people who have lived rich and fulfilled lives and contributed so much to society. It is wrong and possibly the most harrowing and heartbreaking repeated failures of the health system.
“We see so many families heartbroken to see their loved ones in such a bad way. Often it is not their ill health and not the fact that they are in the final stages of their lives, it is the way they are treated. That has to change.
“There are far too many cases where the elderly spend the final weeks of their lives in pain and discomfort and in such a poor state of health that it is devastating for their families to watch. Some families have told us they have been ‘relieved’ when they have died in cases where negligence is admitted.
“These families receive damages for the suffering their mother, father, brother or sister has gone through, but that doesn’t take away those final memories of them in avoidable pain and discomfort.
“Hospitals and care homes should be places where comfort and care for the elderly are a priority, yet we have seen cases where people have been suffering from weeping sores on their backs and feet, or in agony because their dental care has not been considered.
“It is accepted that hospital bed sores are avoidable in the vast majority of cases with proper management and care plans to ensure the right bedding and mattress, and regular turning, yet we continue to see so many cases.
“To have families come and see us and tell how their loved ones were stripped of their dignity is heartbreaking.”
Elderly have suffered serious head injuries, been left in agony, without medication and dental care
Cases highlighted by the firm in which it has represented families recently have included
- An 84-year-old great-grandmother from London suffering agonising pain for the final year of her life as district nurses failed to properly treat a bed sore which allowed it to develop into a ‘weeping black hole’ in her lower back. Around 90% of the woman’s skin in the area of the sores had become necrotic and had therefore died.
- An 85-year-old woman from Liverpool who had twice successfully battled cancer but spent her final days in ‘agony’ as a grade 4 pressure sore, the worst rating and the most severe type of ulcer where skin is severely damaged and the surrounding tissue begins to die, was allowed to develop by hospital staff. She was in so much pain her son said he was ‘relieved’ when she died.
- A West Yorkshire care home failing to provide any dental care to an elderly resident with memory loss for almost six years – leading to him losing 24 teeth and needing emergency hospital treatment.
- An 85-year-old woman dying of a massive blood clot because a Hull hospital failed to give her vital blood-thinning medication she required for more than two days
- An 87-year old woman being found by her daughter lying on the mattress on the floor in a Greenwich hospital with her night dress pulled down exposing her breasts, and the cubicle curtain open, after suffering head injuries in a fall from her hospital bed.
Firm hopes to encourage families to be more questioning of care and be ‘the voice of loved ones’
As part of the campaign, Hudgell Solicitors plans to raise awareness around the need for relatives to be more involved in the care of their loved ones. The need to ask questions at each and every stage of their treatment.
It is also urging people to share their stories of poor treatment of elderly relatives to highlight the ‘shocking scale’ of the problem.
“We plan to place a focus on raising awareness around the importance of relatives asking questions of health providers and standing up for their loved ones by being their voice each and every day,” said Mr Shore.
“Does the hospital and its staff know the needs of the patient, what is their care plan, have they planned to avoid falls, do all staff know and follow diet plans and if sores do begin to develop, why have they and what is being done? All these are totally justifiable questions to ask.
“We want to encourage an environment where relatives question more, people are sometimes afraid to do so but it is so important. Often the patient is not in a position to ask questions about their care themselves. Our message is don’t ask too late and speak up.”
Campaign previously won huge national support calling for CCTV in care homes
In 2016 Hudgell Solicitors used its Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly campaign to call a parliamentary debate as to whether CCTV should be made compulsory in all care homes in a bid to protect residents from abuse.
It followed criminal court proceedings against staff at an East Yorkshire care home, after the family of dementia sufferer Freda Jobson secretly-recorded them mocking her as she laid helpless in bed.
Mrs Jobson also developed pressure sores which became so bad they measured 6cm x 3cm and had a depth down to the bone. They had extensive underlying tissue damage and were classed by an independent medical expert as being the worst level ‘Grade 4’ sores.
She also had sores to her toe and elbow, whilst her heel was so bad it was considered ‘ungradeable’, with 85 per cent dead tissue.
The campaign won widespread national support and media coverage, resulting in the Government issuing a statement in which it said it recognised CCTV had played a role in exposing abuse and said it did not object to the use of CCTV cameras in care homes on a ‘case by case basis’.
Official guidance is now provided by the Care Quality Commission to advice relatives on how they can use secret filming if they believe their loved ones are being abused or neglected.
Humber NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for the district nurses treating Mrs Jobson at Keldgate Manor Residential Care Home, Beverley, admitted liability for the poor management of the sores she developed. Mrs Jobson died in April of this year.