ITS GOT TO STOP NOW Cruelty of the carers: Damning report into home help for the elderly finds neglect so appalling some wanted to die
‘These small acts of cruelty are being enacted, possibly unthinkingly, every day’
Cancer victim, 76, had to struggle to kitchen to heat up a meal - because it was claimed health and safety rules meant home helpers could not operate a microwave
Another patient, her 90s, put to bed at 2.45pm
Thousands of elderly people are being abused and neglected in their homes by the very staff meant to care for them.
In some cases the treatment is so appalling that frail and vulnerable pensioners have been left ‘wanting to die’, a report reveals today.
It comes after studies exposing the shocking standard of care for old people in hospitals and care homes across the country.
one example, a care worker forced a 76-year-old cancer victim to struggle to the kitchen to heat up a meal – because it was claimed health and safety rules meant a helper could not operate a microwave.
Another was put to bed at 2.45pm – while some were even left to starve by refusing help with their meals.
The daughter of one neglected pensioner told the inquiry team: ‘These small acts of cruelty are being enacted, possibly unthinkingly, every day.
The landmark study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission also lifts the lid on appalling physical abuse and carers stealing money from pensioners.
But it warns the victims often do not complain for fear of repercussions.
The study also accused councils of being guilty of cruel age discrimination: spending less money on and providing fewer services for pensioners than they would for younger adults with similar care needs.
Appalling neglect of some of the 500,000 older people relying on council and private home helps leaves many of them stuck in their own homes, suffering from ‘pervasive social isolation and loneliness’. The report concluded: ‘Many of these incidents amount to abuses of human rights.
‘The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity.’
The EHRC report found pensioners’ human rights were being breached in a number of ways:
Elderly not being given adequate support to eat or drink, in particular those with dementia
Home helps not carrying out vital tasks such as washing and dressing because of lack of time;
Financial abuse, such as money being systematically stolen;
Talking over older people (sometimes on mobile phones) or patronising them;
Physical abuse, such as rough handling or unnecessary force.
Sally Greengross, commissioner for the EHRC, said: ‘It is essential that care services respect people’s basic human rights.
'This is not about burdensome red tape, it is about protecting people from the kind of dehumanising treatment we have uncovered.
'The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us.
‘Most of us will want to carry on living in our own homes later in life, even if we need help to do so.
‘When implemented, the recommendations from this inquiry will provide secure foundations for a home care system that will let us do so safely, with dignity and independence.’
The report concluded home helps get away with appalling standards because the elderly are frightened to complain, believing it could have repercussions such as them getting an even worse standard of care. It was striking how reluctant older people are to make complaints,’ it said.
‘They do not want to get their care workers in trouble, feared being put into residential care and did not want to “make a fuss”.’
Councils are racked with age discrimination, the report said. Evidence provided to the inquiry found that people over the age of 65 get less money spent on their care than younger people with similar care needs, and get a more limited range of services.
Some town halls’ contact numbers even screen out older people needing home care without passing them on for a full assessment – something which is against the law.
The commission also found people who funded all or part of their care as a result of council means tests often received worse care, because only those who received all their care for free come under the remit of the Human Rights Act.
The inquiry follows a damning report by the Care Quality Commission in May which raised serious concerns about the treatment of older patients in care homes and NHS hospitals. A wave of inspections was ordered to be carried out in 500 care homes for the elderly and 50 hospitals after inspectors found nurses and carers were failing to provide the most basic of necessities.
Similar failings were highlighted earlier this year by the Health Service Ombudsman who cited cases of patients left to become so thirsty they could not cry for help.
Last night, care services minister Paul Burstow said: ‘This Government won’t tolerate poor care. I am determined to root out ageism and bad practice to drive up quality and dignity in care.’
Labour spokesman for older people, Liz Kendall, said Government cuts were pushing the social care system ‘to breaking point’.
THE DAMNING DOSSIER
Today’s report has uncovered dozens of examples of appalling care provided by home helps. Here is a selection of the most harrowing:
Health And Safety Left OAP To Starve
An able-bodied, healthy 32-year-old female care worker stood and watched a 76-year-old woman with advanced cancer struggle from the lounge to the kitchen to microwave a meal, as the home help said she could not to do it ‘because of health and safety’ – although apparently this did not preclude the worker from dishing up the microwaved meal on to a plate. The pensioner’s daughter said: ‘It is hard to think of a reason or excuse big enough adequately to cover such a fundamental lack of care from one adult to another.’
78-year-old Pushed Back Into Her Chair
One 78-year-old woman described her treatment at the hands of carers: ‘Most of the girls were nasty; they were rough. Rather than say “sit in the chair”, they’ d push me back into the chair, and I didn’t like that. I couldn’t do anything about it. I can’t even walk – they know you’re vulnerable.’
Woman’s Weight Plummeted To 7st
An elderly woman’s weight went down to 7st because carers just left food beside her, even though she was physically unable to feed herself. She had Huntingdon’s disease, which means she needs an hour to swallow her meal and has to ingest 4,000 calories a day – but carers would simply plonk the food down and rush off to the next appointment.
Patient In Her 90s Put To Bed In Afternoon
One woman in her 90s was put to bed at 2.45pm because that fit in with the carer’s time slot. Her daughter recalled: ‘The carers get mum ready for bed at 4.30pm. Mum would prefer this later but the only slot given was after 9.30pm and this was too late for her. Last week one carer arrived at 2.45pm to get her ready for bed.’
Man Made To Shower In Front Of Trainees
One man, aged over 65, found himself being showered in front of a room full of trainees. ‘I have MS and am very severely disabled, and feel my dignity is not being respected when I have several trainees observing quite an intimate routine,’ he said.
Elderly Mother Left In Filthy Bedding
The daughter of a woman in her 80s said: ‘For several weeks mum was not bathed or had her hair washed. One time, carers decided not to do any of her washing any more, even though it was on her care plan, leading to my mum being left in filthy nightwear and clothes and bedding.’
Carer Ignored Blind Man On Visits
A care worker came round every morning to visit a deaf/blind man called Sam. She made him his breakfast and left it on the kitchen top – but never told him she was there, let alone that his breakfast was in the kitchen. Every morning, the breakfast went uneaten.
Dementia Patient’s Day Without Food
A woman with Alzheimer’s didn’t have anything to eat all day after a carer made her a sandwich, but simply put it in the fridge and told her to eat it at lunchtime. She forgot and did not have anything to eat until her daughter visited that night