As we campaign for CCTV to be installed in all care and residential homes across the UK, solicitor Hayley Collinson, a specialist in handling cases of care home abuse and neglect at Hudgell Solicitors, has provided the following advice.
Choosing a care or residential home
- Try and choose a home that suits your relative. This will vary depending on their needs, personality, and way of life.
- Conduct your own research. Guidance is available on websites such as Age Concern, but you should also conduct visits at homes you are considering at different times of the day, and if possible, ask to see the rooms and meet staff and other residents. You will get a feel for the home yourself, and have to feel comfortable and happy with it.
- Try to understand how flexible the home’s routine is and consider if your relative or loved one would be happy in that environment. See what activities are provided within the home, and outside, such as day trips.
- Check previous reports on the standards in the home. Homes with a poor track record and a history of sub-standard care can soon be identified with research.
- Speak with the manager about the philosophy and approach, the training of staff and any awards they have received for good care. Ask what training staff have had and what ongoing training is available?
How to spot the signs of abuse
When visiting loved ones, it’s important to ask questions and assess their sense of wellbeing each time. Sometimes care home abuse can be emotional rather than physical, so there are many things to look out for, including;
- A change in character or personality, or signs of fearfulness: This can be a sign of abuse, so make sure you ask questions as to why it is happening. They may have become withdrawn or seem a bit solemn when you visit, or perhaps they may have lost weight or not communicated as well as usual.
- Check for weight loss on their charts, and have a look at their arms, feet and back for signs of pressure sores or bruises which could be the result of poor moving and handling or falls. With advances in technology and simple measures such as regular repositioning, 95 per cent of pressure ulcers are avoidable. If your loved one is suffering from a pressure ulcer, it is very likely to be the result of negligent care.
- Malnourishment and dehydration: This can happen if carers do not help their patients to eat and drink, or if food and drink is placed out of their reach.
- Failure to administer medication: If patients are unable to administer their own medication, it is the responsibility of their carer to ensure prescriptions are taken. If you are concerned, it is important to ask questions.
What to do if you suspect abuse is happening
- Speak not only to staff and careers on the floor about your concerns, but also people in senior managerial positions, to see if they are aware of any particular issues your relative has.
- Document areas of care you are unhappy with, by perhaps keeping a diary of when you have felt care was not as it should be during visits. Formal complaints should then be made in writing, preferably asking for a response in writing too.
- If you are concerned you are still not being told all that is happening, guidance has been published by the Care Quality Commission on secret filming. This is something being increasingly used by concerned families.
We hope this advice is useful, and as we continue to campaign for the vulnerable and elderly to be loved, protected, respected and cared for with dignity, we’d like as many people as possible to sign our petition for CCTV to be installed in all care and residential homes in the UK.