Secret filming in privately run residential nursing homes, broadcast as part of a BBC Panorama investigation, has again put the standard of care for our elderly in the spotlight. The programme, which aired last night, showed one nurse saying she would give morphine to a resident simply “to shut her up” when saying she needed to go to hospital – an event which was described by an independent expert as “horrifying”.
Footage was recorded by three reporters (one who posed as a resident and two who gained employment), describing homes having ‘an overpowering odour of urine’, and witnessing ‘staff run off their feet’. One reporter was even asked to look after a resident with severe dementia, despite having had no specialist training.
The programme has raised awareness of an issue we are all too aware of at Hudgell Solicitors given our work in representing the victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, and will no doubt have caused many across the country to reassess the standard of care being provided to their relatives.
We have continually campaigned for improved care, through our Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly (LOVE) campaign, which calls on homes to ensure residents are treated with love and respect, are protected and given their dignity at all times.
We have previously called for CCTV cameras in homes, something which the Government has resisted so far.
For now, without that option of cameras for when they are not around, relatives of those in care have to be aware of the possible signs of neglect and abuse.
Here are five signs of potential abuse which can often be missed or overlooked by relatives;
- Fearfulness – If your loved one shows a sudden change in their behavior or their overall demeanor, it is worth asking questions. Abuse is not always physical, and we have seen many cases in the media of intimidating and dismissive treatment of nursing or care home residents behind closed doors when relatives have left. Your loved one may well fear being shouted at or threatened when you leave, so if they can communicate well, ask questions as to how they are feeling and who looks after them well. Too often relatives leave with a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right, but don’t ask questions and push for the reasons why.
- Pressure sores and ulcers – Pressure ulcers or sores should not be happening with the advances in technology. Experts agree that they are avoidable in around 95% of cases, so if the nursing home dismisses them as being part and parcel of life when a patient’s movement is limited, don’t simply accept it. Ask how often they were being repositioned and what action is being taken to prevent sores developing or worsening. Don’t forget, in 95% of cases they are avoidable. The serious consequences of pressure sores were highlighted in the case of Freda Jobson, who suffered some of the worst sores our team at Hudgell Solicitors have seen.
- Bruises and body injuries – Cuts, bruises or scratches to the skin may are of course something which can happen by accident when an elderly person is unsteady on their feet. However, many relatives we speak to in neglect compensation cases have failed to ask detailed questions as to when their loved one suffered an injury or fall, and how. Many simply accept it has happened because their relatives are old and frail. However, was a care plan devised to prevent falls and to help your loved one move around. If there is a risk of falls, such a plan should be devised and followed to prevent such accidents happening. If not, why not?
- Malnourishment and dehydration – Many residents struggle to eat and drink, and we rely upon a care or nursing home and its staff to make sure they have their meals and drinks as required. If food and drink is left out of reach, or if residents are not helped to eat their meals as they should be, it can lead to malnourishment and dehydration, and a rapid decline in health. Don’t simply accept a report which says meals were provided a set number of times a day. Ask how much was eaten, who helped during meal times and what the meal time process is to ensure your relative is well fed and watered.
- General health care failings – Being given the right medication is key for almost all care home and residential nursing home residents, especially when they are unable to administer it themselves. It is the responsibility of the carers to ensure prescriptions are taken when they should be, and at the right dosage. Equally, all other aspects of health should be taken care of (we had a case in which a patient had not been seen by a dentist in seven years). If you are concerned over any aspect of general health, ask questions about it and raise it with senior managers as soon as possible.
If you spot any nursing or care home injuries, or signs of poor care, call our team of specialist solicitors today.