It is not just the obvious physical and psychological cases of abuse. The most common form of negligence in a care home environment is the simple neglect of basic care that leads to pressure sores, medication errors, falls, late referrals for treatment, dehydration and malnutrition.
Highlighting poor care of the elderly will stop the neglect and prevent this happening to other vulnerable people. Anyone is entitled to contact their council if they have suspicions about a person’s care. The local authorities are obliged to look at the allegations and can launch a formal safeguarding investigation.
It is also vital to seek expert legal advice to check the elderly person’s legal rights. A successful claim for compensation, if the person has been injured, can be important to the future quality of their life. Settlements can help fund private medical treatment, speed up rehabilitation, pay for extra care, changes to the home and car, replace earnings of a family carer, and help with the practical everyday expenses that inevitably come with illness.
Vulnerable adult neglect and abuse is not an isolated problem. The neglect or abuse of elderly or disabled people in care has jumped 13 per cent during the last reporting year (2014-2015), according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
Just under 41,000 allegations relating to vulnerable adults – the majority of them elderly – were reported to social services by concerned neighbours, friends, carers and others. That is a rise of almost 4,800 in 12 months and the figures also revealed a small rise in referrals to social services regarding alleged physical and psychological abuse.
The figures reflected the shortage of affordable, quality care for older people in England at a time when the elderly population is increasing and social care budgets are being cut. Understaffed and undertrained care homes coping with more cuts to funding will lead to more cases of neglect.
Over the past five year community care and care home neglect and abuse of the elderly has been well documented by the media. The higher public awareness may also account, in part, for the rise in allegations, which can only be a good thing.
Currently the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – an independent regulator of health and adult social care in England – lists 51 care homes as ‘inadequate’ and another 364 that ‘require improvements’. ‘Inadequate’ means that the care home service is performing badly and the CQC has taken enforcement action against the provider. In cases where the care home ‘requires improvement’ the service is not performing as well as it should and the CQC has told the service how it must improve.
According to BBC’s 5 Live Investigations in early 2015, 14,888 claims about the welfare of care home residents aged 65 and over were reported to 74 councils in 2013-14. It is safe to say that the figures would have been higher had all the 152 councils responded to the BBC’s request for information.
The three most common consequences of care home neglect that we deal with are:
Pressure sores develop where a patient’s skin is in contact with the bed or chair for extended periods of time. Regularly changing the body’s position is one of the most effective ways of preventing pressure ulcers, as well as eating healthily and checking the skin on a daily basis for signs of pressure sores. These are all basic care standards that should not be neglected. Without the right care elderly patients who are ill, immobile, diabetic and have poor skin condition are vulnerable to this very serious condition that can lead to infection and permanent pain.
2. Medication errors
Elderly people will usually suffer from a number of different illnesses each requiring multiple prescriptions. This makes them vulnerable to medication errors and omissions. Again, lack of trained staff and dementia symptoms will compound the issue and old people will be more vulnerable to the effects of a wrong medication or dosage.
Fractures from falls and handling errors within a care home environment are common. This is especially the case when staff are undertrained and without experienced supervision, and residents are not provide with the right mobility aids, such as a wheelchair. Of course, elderly people are vulnerable to slips and trips, and not all injuries are cause by neglect, but some injuries can be avoided with good care.
The standard of care in a home or community setting has a huge impact on both the elderly person and their family. We understand that negligence or abuse can cause untold upset and damage for everyone involved. We specialise in care home neglect and mistreatment, and we can help deal with both the technical and emotional side of a complex area of law.
We will be with you every step of the way if you decide to take action on behalf of a loved one who did not receive the standard of care they deserved.
Contact us on 0800 230 0573 to speak to one of our Clinical Negligence specialists.
Safeguarding Adults, Annual Report, England 2014-15, Experimental Statistics