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Care of our elderly

When people go into hospital they know that the NHS is stretched but it seems to be all too common that even the most basic levels of care are not being provided.

Elderly people are often very frail and may be suffering from underlying conditions such as dementia which mean that they are not able to fully express the concerns or problems they have. It would be expected that this would be taken into account and that higher levels of supervision would be given to these vulnerable members of society. Unfortunately the opposite seems to be true.

There are countless stories of elderly people not even receiving food or fluids. In a frail person this can quickly lead to dehydration and a deterioration in their condition. We have all seem the horrific stories of people not being provided with basic hygiene needs and extreme cases of physical abuse.

There is no doubt that these people need protecting. Often family members feel that there is little they can do or that complaining may make the situation worse. That is not the case. There are many ways in which relatives can help to protect their loved ones.

The first step is to make a complaint to the care home or the hospital involved. All such establishments have a legal obligation to have an effective system in place to deal with complaints. In a care home setting this may lead to the involvement of Social Services or the Local Government Ombudsman who can order an apology to be given. This is also likely to lead to a review of the care being provided.

If this does not lead to a satisfactory outcome relatives can always seek legal advice on their relatives behalf. What is essential is to approach a solicitor with expertise in this area. There are detailed regulations in place as to the levels of care which should be provided by care homes and specialist solicitors will be aware of the legal process, both in terms of bringing a claim and giving appropriate advice as to the next step to take in the process.

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