Have you read the recent reports about the abysmal care provided in some care homes? Injustice presses my buttons every time and I find myself chewing over the situation in my mind. I am a bit of an expert here as I researched extensively when my parents became ill. Then, when a friend’s father needed additional care, I was asked to go to Plymouth to help the family with their selection. In one establishment, I was invited into the manager’s office as he thought I worked for the Council and was doing their unannounced assessment. He said the questions I was asking rang alarm bells.
Later, I took over the admin for some nursing homes and travelled between them. It’s this insider knowledge that’s troubling me now. Let me give you an example. At one home I was seconded to, an old man refused to have a bath. He refused to have his room cleaned or his bedding changed and, as a result, his room hummed to put it mildly. I was alarmed when I saw there were spiders nesting beween his bedding and the wall. The outline of his frail body was imprinted on the sheets and there was mould growing on this old chap’s vest. He had no visiting family to speak for him, having lost his wife years earlier.
Me, being me, took issue with this gentleman’s care saying that, in my opinion (for what it was worth), his lack of care amounted to abuse. I got on well with the manager and she explained to me that each individual’s human rights had to be respected. If this man didn’t want to have his bedding changed or take a bath, that was his choice. To me, allowing this represented abuse for, after all, he was in there BECAUSE he was unable to care for himself. I couldn’t leave it alone and, after chatting with this man for a while, he eventually agreed to take a bath. While he was freshening up (putting it mildly), his bedding was changed and his room cleaned. How can it ever be right to allow the elderly to remain in conditions that are detrimental to their health? All he needed was someone to take the time to understand what he was afraid of rather than stand up for his human rights. Human rights or abuse?
Something else I found rather shocking, yes I did, because it was unexpected, was that new care assistants were shown films about care as part of their induction process. Fine. One of these films again championed the human rights of the residents. Yes, that’s great, as long as they’re not harmful to either the individual or those caring for them. What bothered me? The fact that young girls were told that elderly gentlemen were allowed to have pornographic films to watch in their rooms – to deny that would be denial of their human rights. My questions were: Who would supply these films? Who would be expected to put the films on? What behavioural ramifications would this have for the staff, primarily young girls, nursing the residents?
In what seems like another life, as a nurse I reported a care assistant for abuse of an old man at the General Hospital where I was working. Outcome? She was moved to a geriatric hospital where patients were even more vulnerable. When I had been a student at that same hospital, I’d complained about an old lady being put on an ambi lift and dipped in and out of cold water. The reply: “You’ll soon get the milk of human kindness knocked out of you, my girl”.
The whole scenario of abuse troubles me deeply, especially as people are living longer requiring additional help and budgets allocated for care of the elderly and vulnerable are being reduced. What do you think?