A care home failed 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.
Fairburn Chase Care Home, in Castleford, West Yorkshire, admitted the neglectful care of the resident after his family removed him from the home and took legal action.
The resident, who had chronic memory loss, was noted to need ‘full assistance to maintain hygiene standards’ when admitted to the home.
However, in all the time he was a resident, the home failed to register him with a dentist and provided no day to day dental care.
When his family raised concerns and he was examined by an independent orthodontist as part of a legal case led by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, the man was admitted to hospital as an emergency due to having an aspirated tooth.
He then required the removal of his entire set of upper teeth, and eight teeth from his lower set, due to widespread decay.
Son became worried and started asking questions after noticing signs of poor care
His son, who has asked that his father not be identified, had become concerned after visiting him more frequently at the home, following his mother’s death.
He said: “I perhaps should have been visiting my dad more often, but my mother used to go all the time and I would visit a number of times. It was when we started going more often after my mum died that we started to notice signs of poor care and started asking questions.
“Firstly, we noticed that he was wincing when he walked and when we checked his toe nails they were really long and had started to curl around. We asked about this and were told there hadn’t been enough money in his kitty to pay to see the chiropodist, even though when we removed him from the home he still had more than £100.
“Then we noticed he had blood on his trousers, and when we looked he had a big flesh wound, yet when we asked about this they had no incident report as to how the injury had been suffered.
“This was all causing us concern, and it was then that my wife decided to check inside his mouth and what we found was shocking and alarming. His teeth had basically rotted away to stumps of the roots.”
Legal case identified failure to create and follow dental care plan
As part of a legal case made against the home owners Fairburn Chase Health Care Limited, solicitor Paul Cain alleged there had been a failure to create and follow a dental care plan by the home.
It was also alleged the home failed to refer him for appropriate dental care, and that as a result, the home had been ‘vicariously liable’ for the failings of its employees in failing to provide proper care.
An independent nursing expert, consulted as part of the case, said routine and regular support of personal hygiene should have included mouth care, and that there were no references to tooth care within his care notes, and no oral hygiene plan.
Insurers on behalf of the home admitted it had breached its duty of care by ‘failing to formulate or implement care plans in relation to oral hygiene’ and for failing to refer him for ‘appropriate dental checks or treatment’ during his time at the home. They agreed to pay a five-figure damages settlement to the family.
‘A truly shocking case of care home neglect which was completely unacceptable’
Solicitor Mr Cain said: “The last dental records taken for my client before he was admitted to the care home showed he had immaculate teeth. When he left the home he had caries in the majority of his teeth and needed 16 upper teeth removing, and eight out of 16 of his lower teeth.
“At a meeting with the home, when the family requested to remove him and take him to live back home with them, the home management offered no explanation as to why they had not registered him with a dentist for almost six years, although they did apologise.
“It is a truly shocking case of neglect and it is completely unacceptable for such a basic care need to be overlooked. The amount of decay he suffered would have led to substantial pain and suffering and where there is a lack of care such as this it goes straight to the heart of the resident’s quality of life.
“It is very upsetting for family members who put their trust in a care home to look after their loved ones. It is about maintaining basic human dignity in those who may need help in looking after themselves.”
The man, now 72, is living with his son and wife again, with his family having won a battle with social services for him to be able to return home.
The family renovated their town house to convert a garage into a bedroom and wet-room, and his son says they have all adapted to a new way of life.
“It was the right thing for everybody at the time for my dad to go into a care home, although I think with better advice my mother could have looked after him at home with some support,” he said.
“She was made to feel that a care home was the only option, and it was clearly the wrong one as it has failed my father badly. We feel sad about what happened, and very angry.
“Sadly, when you experience this with your own family, you become aware of how common poor and neglectful care is across the country in care homes, as you read other cases in the media. It really is something which has to be stopped.
“We have all adapted and we are used to having dad back home now. My wife cares for him with the support of an NHS carer, and although people said he wouldn’t walk again he walked half a mile with me recently. He is much better at home with us.”