Home care for elderly branded 'shocking and disgraceful'

Elderly person Ministers have already promised they will be revamping social care in England

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The standards of care provided for older people in their homes in the UK has been labelled "shocking and disgraceful" by a consumer group.

Which? found cases of missed visits, food left out of reach, medication not given and people being left in soiled beds during its investigation.

It concluded too many faced a "constant battle" to just get the basic help.

The UK Home Care Association said it was never acceptable for people to experience rushed or inadequate care.

Which? said the findings - based on a survey and diaries kept by the elderly - showed the system needed reform.

More than 500,000 people rely on help at home with activities such as washing and dressing.

Funding squeeze

These include both people who get council-funded care and those who pay for it themselves.

While Which? said there were some examples of excellent care, it claimed too many were being poorly served.

The group asked 30 people to keep diaries over the course of a week detailing their experiences.

The care worker's story

"I've been in this profession for 10 years. This agency doesn't pay for travelling time so it's rush, rush, rush and the time I spend travelling is taken from each customer."

"Fifteen-minute visits used to be check calls or to give medication. Now they're used to microwave a meal, empty a commode and travel to the next person. It's impossible."

One elderly lady was left alone in the dark for hours unable to find food or drink.

Another was left without a walking frame so she was unable to get to the bathroom and one man was not given vital medication for his diabetes.

The poll, of nearly 1,000 people, found one of the most common complaints was missed or rushed visits.

Nearly half of respondents said visits had been missed in the last six months with most not being warned in advance.

One daughter said: "They missed a day just after Christmas. I covered, but mum didn't contact me until early evening by which time she needed a lot of cleaning up.

"You wonder about the elderly with no relatives."

Which? said the situation was only likely to get worse as councils increasingly squeeze funding.

'Real crisis'

This report is just the latest in a series that has highlighted the struggle the elderly are facing.

At the end of last year the Equality and Human Rights Commission said standards were so bad they even breached human rights.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Our investigation found some disgraceful examples of care with elderly people given little time or respect.

The daughter's story

"A few carers are nice: they sing with mum, make her laugh and give good care. But mum's had some distressing hours. What can you do?

"Starting with a new firm and having mum get used to strangers again is too much. I'd like to have confidence that when care workers are there, mum is safe and well cared for."

"The government can no longer claim to be shocked as report after report highlights the pitiful state of care for older people."

And Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said the system was putting the "health and dignity of older people at risk".

The UK Home Care Association, which represents the agencies which provide many of the services, said its members were increasingly under pressure to cut the length of visits by councils wanting to save money.

Mike Padgham, the group's chairman, said: "The report supports our growing concern over state-funded homecare.

"People and their families must be confident that they will receive dignified and effective care.

"They must look to government and local councils to place the needs of elderly and disabled people at the forefront in the current economic climate, to avoid the concerning picture described in today's report."

Councillor David Rogers, of the Local Government Association, said: "This research highlights the very real crisis this country is facing in providing care for the elderly and vulnerable.

"We know there isn't enough money in the system and without fundamental reform the situation is only going to get worse and stories like this will sadly become increasingly common."

The government has promised to publish plans this year to overhaul the system in England. One of the aims of the forthcoming changes is to create a fairer and better-funded system.

The other parts of the UK are also looking at their systems.

Even in Scotland, where care is provided free, services are having to be rationed to only those who are the most in need because finances are stretched.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    The issue here is agencies employing staff at low wage, they have tight time slots to visit which leaves no room for providing good quality care, before rushing to the next visit. Care and Profit do not mix

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    There is never enough funding for the things that matter. If you're old and need help or if you're not fit to work. There, always seems to be plenty of money to fight wars and kill people though. Employees in general working in health care do a great job, unfortunately they bear the brunt of underfunding at ground level. There's also the uncounted, unpaid carers looking after relatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    As a care provider we are often put in difficult positions by local authorities, if a service user's health deteriorates and you are told there is no xtra funding, do you?
    Do the job properly and at a loss
    Put our carers at risk of injury expecting them to perform a two person job alone ignoring health and safety guidelines
    Rush the job or take shortcuts to providing quality care

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    well thank you press, I have been suffering from back ache daily, paid £7p/hr, spoken to like dirt, unpaid when I'm sick and now criticised by the media ... that's enough motivation to leave this profession and maybe the sons and daughters who do NOTHING can clean up their parents faeces for a while and lift them out of bed ... see how they get on!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    The better home care agencies have an ethos of quality care, will not do visits of less than an hour, and offer their carers good training and decent rates of pay. But this comes at a price which local authorities and many families are not prepared to pay. There are plenty of other companies who will visit for 15 minutes and provide a very basic (and often poor) service. You get what you pay for.


Comments 5 of 11


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