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Would you challenge poor care?

Care home

You finally find what appears to be a good care home for your loved one, but as the years go by you become concerned about the quality of that care. PamS joins us as a guest to share her struggles of challenging the quality of care at her mother’s care home…

I got on very well with the owners of my mother’s care home until ‘Matron’ (joint owner) began accusing me of owing over five thousand pounds in arrears of fees. I knew this was impossible and was able to prove payment for every period of alleged arrears they came up with, but this caused a lot of ill feeling on her part.

Care complaints

A year later when visiting Mum I found her crying. She needed the bathroom but there was only one carer in the building to attend to the needs of over twenty residents on three floors and he’d refused to take her.

When I complained to Matron her resentment boiled over and she shouted at me again saying I owed £5,000, then told me it was her care home and she could throw my mother out. That afternoon I had a letter giving my mother notice to leave.

Social services told me Mum had no designated social worker and directed me to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), who said they don’t get involved in individual cases. The move went ahead but the stress of it proved too much for Mum and, we believe, accelerated her death two weeks later.

After Mum’s death, I wanted answers. I was right to complain about staffing and I had paid every invoice presented over eight years amounting to more than £160,000.

The Ombudsman said the care home’s owners could evict my mother according to the terms of the contract, but the problem was that I had never had one. When the owners were asked for a signed copy of the contract, they faxed what appeared to me to be an undated photocopy forgery, and then they reported to the local police that they’d had a break-in and, of all things, my mother’s file had been stolen.

The original document I had asked to see could not be produced.

Using a shambolic print out of my mother’s account activity report from the accountants we prepared a spreadsheet and were able to pinpoint all the errors and omissions (which they had never been able to do). The owners agreed their accounts were wrong but never apologised.

Care quality

Social services held a meeting about the care home and my mother’s case was on the agenda, but they passed me from department to department refusing to tell me what was discussed or if the owners complied with their ‘duty of care’ by having Mum assessed as well enough to withstand a move. Her doctor said he would have advised against the move.

The CQC has not put in place a minimum staff/resident ratio. In my view, if staff numbers remain at the discretion of the care homes, our loved ones may not be cared for properly.

Fees cost thousands of pounds; so shouldn’t there be proper quality in the care that we are paying for?

I’ve added my name to Which?’s care campaign because I agree that we need an urgent review of the care system. Our care system needs care now.

Margaret Byrne says:
20 October 2017

When care is purely for profit the clients and care staff are exploited.Things must change

I have seen many bad examples of poor care and also uncaring attitudes when elderly neighbours have had to go into a care home. Unfortunately there are too many and the experiences too long to relate here. Most of the problems occurred in homes that were run by large organisations who own many care homes. These homes were run by managers, some managers were good and some were bad, but the owners with the bad managers sat back and counted the profits, while cutting the overhead expenditure to the bare minimum to make even more profit. I have experienced excellent care when the owner was onsite to manage the running of the home themselves, so a hands on person that is accountable and approachable if there is a problem. I understand the difficulties of running a care home and people need to make a profit, but I believe that both the government and councils should do more to make sure that a care home is run in a satisfactory manor, especially when large organisations are involved and that care home means care home and not uncaring home.

David O'Brien says:
21 October 2017

My brother is in a care home and lives several hundred miles away from me. My two sisters are in direct contact with the care home and regularly visit my brother. When I read the current CQC report for that home I get a different picture to them and I am not sure why the issues have not been manifest in what they witness. All the danger signals are there eg poor management, agency staffing at night etc. My brother calls it “this bloody place” and his lack of positivity is put down to his character but there may be something in it.
To answer the question “would you challenge poor care?” I would answer I would challenge it but circumstances make it hard. I am naturally sceptical though I think it is extremely difficult , when unlike me, my sisters visit every week and are probably swayed by the tangible signals that say everything is hunky dory. In the examples above there seem to be many examples of the worm turning. Our inherent “benefit of the doubt” attitude and the mad scramble to rationalise chaos or see the pint half full reflects out national traits. It seems to take a lot to turn the worm but then the apparatus to help the complainant is missing and as Pam S points out it is an unequal struggle. The balance should change dramatically to favour residents and their families . It seems like this thing is to do with the aged but it affects all age groups . Our children will face callous, insensitive treatment in their latter years if we don’t make a stand now and champion better care.

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Joyce Mason says:
21 October 2017

Unfortunately as someone who worked in the care system I have seen bad practice. I was appalled at the food that the residents were given. For tea there given 2 fish fingers and a slop of tinned tomatoes. I think my dog would have been offended being served that. Thats a disgrace for someone who is paying upwards of £600 a week to be treated like a second class citizen just because you have got older. I would die on my own in my own home than be treated worse than a dog. Its a scandal to pay overinflated prices, looked after? by people on a minimum wage and given slop to eat. The government should hang its head in shame. I’m just glad my parents never needed to go into a home. My mum begged me not to put her in a home. I told her I never would.

My mother sadly died in January 2017 days short of her 100th birthday. For the last four years of her life she had lived in a fantastic residential home in Suffolk. She was well cared for, the staff were so kind and caring. I cannot fault the home at all.

Kathy says:
21 October 2017

I have worked as a nurse in a nursing home. I was disgusted at the food served, also the attitude of the care staff. Every day jelly was served as a pudding, jelly is basically water. There are other foods which can be processed to be more appetising.
I was old the owners were saving money to go and live abroad!

Oh my goodness it breaks my heart to read these stories of neglect. When my daughter was a student she worked during the summer holidays in a care home and she was horrified by the attitude and lack of care of some of the ‘care’ assistants. One very basic thing that horrified her was that when the elderly ladies wet themselves they were not washed before clean pants were put on them . As my daughter said they would have become sore and chaffed. She always ‘gave them a nice wash’ and changed their clothes. The residents loved her.
I have to say that when I was on a NHS ward of mainly elderly ladies following a severe stroke, we were left for on average of 45 minutes after ringing for toileting assistance. I was in sheer agony but some of the old ladies were ‘ wet up to their necks ‘ and chastised by the ‘nurses’ when they eventually came to their assistance. It still hurts to remember this and I am terrified of having to go into hospital again.

Susan says:
21 October 2017

Many years ago my father had t go into a care home in north Wales. Due to the easy access of public transport it we chose this home for ease for my mother to visit. After 4 days we went to collect him due to concerns and found him confused, soiled and worse, a bruise to his face and a cut. Whilst we were there a resident kept hovering and creeping towards myself in an aggressive manner. After a while spoke rather forcefully to him to back off which he did but it is my belief that this was the individual that was the cause of the injuries to my father. The woman who was in change was the most rude individual I have ever come across. Thankfully we managed to find the most caring home you could find, although transport access was a little awkward for mum, and she is great friends with the owners and their family. Stephen Ford accessed my dad and transported him to the home where he lived for the next 17 months with the best care that he could have. I have nothing but praise for them.
Nearer to home in Lancashire, I have recently been helping an elderly friend to visit her terminally ill brother and have once again seen the worse side of care. The glossy brochure bears no relationship to the sight that greeted me. Lack of staff for information, alarms being ignored, threadbare carpets, dismal rooms, checklist of routine left in room and not being used, mug of tea put on table and old and cold mug left behind, wires for the motorised bed across the floor and a trip hazard for visitors, patient and staff, the list is endless.
On the other side of the coin I also had dealings with a care home for a very discerning elderly lady and this home is certainly on the up. clean, staff to ask questions of and obvious care for their residents, and many activities during the week, art class, singer, visiting dog, film afternoons with popcorn etc. The variants of care is enormous and it is very worrying.

I think it is disgusting the way Fred’s wife has been treated .
In my opinion in a lot of care homes it comes down to making money not the care wellbeing and safety of the patient time and time again we hear of this happening enough is enough the government need to do something now .

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It does not make me proud to live in this country.

I am worried sick for the future of both my 83 year of husband who has dementia, and my 58 year old daughter who has a severe learning disability along with various health and mobility problems. I am 79 and presently in good health and able to deal with the various legal, medical and personal issues as well as the increasing daily caring for both of them. My daughter suffered a catastrophic heart attack five years ago due to (in my opinion) the negligence of her totally unsuitable one to one carer foisted on her at the day centre (despite seven months of trying to have her removed). I have absolutely no confidence that either of them will receive appropriate or suitable care should I ever be unable to care for them at home.
I am dependent on the support of friends (who are of the same age group) for any help. The authorities are good at making noises, but not, in my long experience, anything else. I feel that we have been abandoned.

I’m still a few years away from being enrolled in a home by my children but one thing that strikes me from all the horror stories one reads about care homes ‘gone bad’ is the incidence of ignoramuses – to judge from the excuses they give for the poor or brutal treatment they mete out – on the staff of these places. I assume that is because they pay minimum wage and for minimum wage you will get people who are unqualified for anything else. The operators of these places plead expenses but they themselves appear to be doing well enough. Start paying a decent wage to carers and the quality of care will improve. Fund the care like any other social health entitlement from general taxation. Regulate the homes very strictly and jail those who allow abuse to occur – not just the abusers.