A TELEVISION documentary will tonight highlight incidents of elderly people being subjected to neglectful treatment in UK care homes.
It will not make easy viewing for anybody with a loved one currently living in a home, but I hope it will not scare most people, given what is likely to be highlighted is not the norm.
When people take the emotionally tough decision to place a relative in the care of others, the minimum they expect is that they be treated with care, respect and dignity.
Thankfully, in the majority of cases, that is exactly what happens. The vast majority of care home staff are hugely passionate about giving all residents the very best of care, and that it is why they choose to go into such a demanding job. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted.
Staff often work in very difficult and trying circumstances, caring for people suffering from conditions such as dementia, and perhaps even caring for some residents who are regularly abusive themselves toward staff and other residents. Overall, they do a superb job in difficult conditions, and quite often with poor pay.
Unfortunately, as will be demonstrated in the BBC Panorama programme tonight, there are rare occasions when care is not as it should be.
If there is a key message to be taken from the documentary, it will surely be that in the absence of very strict care home rules, which would probably result in most people not choosing that employment, the role relatives can play in looking out for their loved ones is hugely important.
At Neil Hudgell Solicitors, as medical negligence specialists, we deal with many cases of care home neglect and abuse. They range from the more common cases of poor care, such as residents suffering from sores and pressure ulcers as they have not been moved, to outright abusive behaviour of staff.
In almost all cases, it is family members who play the key role in identifying any problems and challenging those responsible for letting their relatives down.
Interestingly, tonight’s documentary will show footage secured by a relative who secretly filmed inside a care home, such was their level of concern.
We ourselves have recently dealt with a case where a concerned daughter planted a tape recording devise in her mother’s wheelchair.
It gathered evidence which led to the care home conducting a full review of its care, resulting in the resignation of the manager, a police investigation, pending court action and an agreement from the home’s insurers to pay out compensation.
Sometimes the least visual abuse can be the most damaging. Carers shouting, threatening, or even ignoring residents may result in them being more fearful day to day.
If they have pressure ulcers, ask questions, as they simply shouldn’t with advances in technology regarding mattresses, and by taking simple measures such as regular repositioning.
Ask yourself if they appear malnourished or dehydrated, as this can happen if carers do not help their patients to eat and drink, or place their food and drink out of reach, and make sure they have had all of their medication. Check to make sure they are clean and are so on a regular basis. Check nails ands and feet. In extreme cases check for bruising on arms and legs. This can be innocent as the elderly are frail but should not be ignored.
Of course, staff will say your loved one has been well looked after, and forms filled in for the use of inspectors will paint a very positive picture.
But when you say your goodbyes and leave at the end of visiting hours, you will know whether you feel all is as it should be.
Quite simply, when you place a family member in care, your role in terms of looking out for them doesn’t stop. Tonight’s documentary will show it simply changes.
You may no longer be the one doing the physical caring, but you must ensure you are not the only one who truly cares.
As Solicitors this is one of the areas of law that is very difficult to challenge. The footage in tonight’s programme is likely to explain why.
BBC Panorama’s Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed will be broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm on Wednesday April 30.