/ Health

Medication left out of reach – home care must change

Our undercover investigation into home care unearthed shocking examples of poor care. Missed visits, forgotten medication and food left out of reach – why aren’t older people being treated with respect?

We asked older people and their families to record their care in a diary for a week. From a woman left alone in the dark for hours unable to find food or drink, to a diabetic man’s vital medication being repeatedly forgotten – carers were often found neglecting the needs of their elderly patients.

But there were some examples of good care, where our diarists reported carers going the extra mile to give excellent service, especially those with regular careworkers. However, a good service was often only provided after complaining, with some family members forced to make continuous phone calls in a battle with agencies.

Is poor communication the cause?

So what’s at the heart of the poor care we’ve uncovered? Can it be blamed on the agencies or the system itself?

The House of Commons Health Committee recently concluded that ‘the current social care system is inadequately funded. People are not receiving the care and support that they need’.

But some of the problems people are experiencing are more basic. In a separate Which? survey, poor communication came out as a big issue, such as agencies failing to let people know that their careworker couldn’t make a visit.

Nearly half of those asked said that at least one visit had been missed in the past six months. Worse still, six in ten had’t been warned in advance.

And poor communication can have a big impact on family carers too. One daughter told us:

‘[The agency] missed a day after Christmas. They incorrectly entered into their database the days we didn’t need care. I covered, but mum didn’t contact me until early evening by which time she needed a lot of clearing up.’

Are care agencies stretched to their limits?

Would it be letting home care agencies off the hook if we said that the system itself is broken, and that they are – as one manager put it – victims caught in a ‘conspiracy of silence’ and unable to challenge the council that pays them? Is the poor care we hear about simply down to these agencies being genuinely stretched to their limits?

Whatever the case, it’s important that the government tackles this issue before missed visits cause serious safety issues and vulnerable people become the next big headline.

brian linegar says:
29 July 2014

I fully agree with what has been said. In fact I have just sent in a complaint because it seems to me that as you past 70 yrs of age they seem to care even less. My gran has breast cancer and has been told that she needs a nurse to go in twice a day. The only problem seems to be that the night nurses don’t always turn up and because she takes “Warfarin” she bleeds from the area affected. Without the night nurse going in she gets soaked in blood. She will be 92yrs old in October. It is a disgrace that she paid in all her working life and is treated worse than an animal.

joyce hunter says:
3 April 2016

My father is in a nursing home in Penn Wolverhampton, he’s had so many un explain injuries, I have taken pictures, report it to wolverhampton Safe Guarding, Walsall social services that pay towards his care,CQC, Health watch, no one appears to care. the CQC will pass it on to Safe guarding, safe guarding ignored me for months,
His last injury was on the 11th march 2016, I was informed by the nurse that same day that 2 carers was cleaning him in the toilet and he slip off the toilet, new cross hospital stated that the wound was too deep for stitches it had to be glued,
I was so upset and angry that I put some of his injuries on face book to get some help, only to be banned by the home , on the 14th March, other family and friends try to visit and the home told them they cant see him, I went to the home on the 25th only to be told no you cant see your dad, I am worried sick for my fathers life in this home


Hello Joyce, my apologies for the delay in replying to you. I’m sorry to hear about your father, it sounds like a very frustrating and stressful situation for you.

We have an advice guide on how to deal with unsatisfactory care on our Which? Elderly Care website here: http://www.which.co.uk/elderly-care/your-relatives-needs/dealing-with-unsatisfactory-care

To escalate complaints and raise your concerns about a care home it’s best to fist speak with the care home, as you’ve done, then with the local authority. In this case, I understand that it would be Wolverhampton City Council’s Adult Social Care unit (telephone 01902 551199). You may also want to speak to the Relatives and Residents Association, it’s a charity that supports older people in residential care and their families, their contact details are here: http://www.relres.org/contact-us.html

I hope that helps.