Every day we read heartbreaking reports of indifference, neglect and abuse of elderly people. It makes us feel frightened for our future selves. We feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and inadequate in effecting change.
Identifying care home abuse is the first step. We need to turn the tables and promote safety and kindness in care homes. It is hoped that the Care Act 2014 will go some way to achieving ease of identifying care home abuse.
We need to be inspired to make a difference.
Families should be inspired to check closely the home proposed for a loved one. You should not be afraid to say no. Identifying care home abuse means moving your loved one to another home. It means reporting that abuse or neglect.
The press should be inspired to write about how homes should be run. Celebrate the good well run homes. Share those ideas and training. Promote how we should all live whether in our own homes or in a care home. A care home should be a home from home.
The number of elderly entering care homes much later in life with complex health needs is increasing. Care homes workers are underpaid, under prepared, under trained, undervalued, and unsupported for the challenging work they do in looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
We know that the best way to achieve the change is to acknowledge that we have a problem. We need to work together to promote training. Human factors training is a great tool for recognising risk and control outcomes. We need to see the delivery of services improve given the investment. Even the smallest actions can make a difference.
Identifying care home abuse
Identifying care home abuse is ‘a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.’
Abuse is the harming of another individual usually by someone who is in a position of power, trust or authority over that individual. The harm may be physical, psychological or emotional or it may be directed at exploiting the vulnerability of the victim in more subtle ways (for example, through denying access to people who can come to the aid of the victim, or through misuse or misappropriation of his or her financial resources).
The threat or use of punishment is also a form of abuse. Identifying care home abuse may be a ‘one-off’ occurrence or it may become a regular feature of a relationship. Other people may be unaware that it is happening and for this reason it may be difficult to detect. In many cases, it is a criminal offence.
Rough handling or unnecessary physical force, either deliberate or unintentional, used in caring for a resident is abuse. Injuries may not always be visible although often there may be bruises, broken skin, cuts, burns or broken bones.
Shouting and swearing at someone should be regarded as abusive behaviour. In addition, speaking to a resident in a quiet but threatening way so as to make the resident fearful or to make the resident an object of ridicule is equally abusive.
Playing on someone’s emotions to make him or her afraid, uneasy or unnecessarily dependent is another form of abuse. Exploiting a resident through using personal information gained through the caring relationship is an abuse of the trust vested in the carer.
Abuse through the misapplication of drugs
The use of drugs to control or restrain a resident is unacceptable unless medically required. The over-use and misuse of sedatives and other medication, which too often happens in homes, should be regarded as evidence of bad practice.
Financial abuse includes the improper use or control of, or the withholding of, a person’s money, pension book, property, bank account or other valuables.
Victimising people, verbally insulting them and physically attacking them because of their racial or ethnic origin is abusive.
Forcing someone to take part in sexual activity against his or her will is abuse and a criminal offence. The force does not have to be physical. Undue emotional pressure placed on an individual may lead him or her to acquiesce in behaviour he or she finds unacceptable.
The withholding of care and treatment when it is required is a form of abuse. Similarly, depriving residents of the essentials of everyday life, such as food, clothes, warmth and personal cleanliness should also be regarded as a form of abuse.
What to do about care home abuse
Identifying care home abuse is distressing. We are here to help you if you or a loved one is being abused in a care home environment. Don’t suffer in silence. We are here to make a difference. Let us help you make a change.
Upon identifying care home abuse we will report your concerns to the Care Quality Commission if you wish.
If we are identifying care home abuse we will help you move your loved one from that care home to a safe environment elsewhere.
We will claim compensation for rehabiltiation and treatment for your loved one.
We will claim compensation for their pain and suffering.
For help call 0845 676 9228 or Dr Victoria Handley at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information read our Care Home Negligence page here
I am grateful to the ‘A Better Home Life’ for the examples of abuse.