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What should you do if you suspect care home abuse?

If a loved one is in care, you want to feel assured that they are in good hands. Unfortunately, some cases come to light that expose negligence and abuse. If you suspect that your loved one is not receiving adequate care, or is being harmed, here are the next steps to take.

What are the signs of care home abuse?

Abuse can be physical or psychological. For those in care, openly discussing this with you may be difficult. It may be, however, that you are spotting the signs of abuse. These might be unexplained injuries, perceived fearfulness, weight loss, or withdrawal.

Here you can read our guide on spotting the signs of care home abuse.

What should I do if I suspect care home abuse?

Whether or not you witness the abuse first hand it’s important to take the right steps.

Initially, you may feel confused and angry, but it’s crucial that you do not exacerbate the situation:

  • Do not immediately press your loved one for more details
  • Do not stop someone who is freely recalling significant events
  • Do not promise to keep secrets: you cannot keep this kind of information confidential
  • Do not contact the alleged abuser
  • Do not be judgmental or aggressive
  • Do not pass on the information to anyone other than those with a legitimate ‘need to know’
  • Do not publicise your loved one’s situation

1. Be supportive of your loved one

First and foremost, if your loved one reveals mistreatment to you, it’s crucial that you reassure them of your support, belief and willingness to help. You need to act in their best interests and assure them of this. That can mean refraining from an aggressive outburst or questioning them. Instead, let them do the talking. If you interrupt them whilst they recount their experience, you may miss valuable information.

2. Report your concerns

The next step is to report the negligence or abuse to somebody who can react to it quickly. Try to report in writing, so that, if necessary, this correspondence is documented.

If in a council-funded home, this will be a matter of reporting to your local social services. If in a private home, report to the Care Quality Commission, which will make a safeguarding referral to social services on you and your love one’s behalf. Depending on the severity and level of risk to your loved one, it will then be determined whether there should be an investigation or if further support is needed.

3. Take notes

Taking written notes of the circumstances of your loved one’s care can be invaluable at a later date. You should log any of the following details:

  • What the care home management have said to you, using their own words
  • The circumstances in which the disclosure came about: how, why and when did you become suspicious?
  • The names of any other individuals who could be witnesses or have some involvement
  • Dated correspondence with management and/or social services
  • The dates, setting and location of any related events: for example, seeing mistreatment first-hand
  • Any physical signs of abuse
  • Any behavioural changes of your loved one

To accurately take these notes, it may be useful to keep a diary. This way the chronology of events will be clear. It is also important to separate factual information, including dates and correspondence, from your own opinions and feelings. Try to keep your notes clear, with a black or blue pen, so that these can be read and photocopied if necessary.

Thinking of secret filming?

It may have also occurred to you to consider secretly filming in order to capture potential evidence of negligence or abuse. This topic is covered comprehensively by the Care Quality Commission here: Thinking about using a hidden camera to monitor someone’s care?

4. Speak to a solicitor

Your loved one’s care home has a legal duty of care, so if there has been a failure in providing this care, you may well have grounds for a negligence claim. If this is something you are considering, or want to know more about, then calling a specialist solicitor is your first step. They will be able to discuss your case with you and offer initial advice.

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