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 272.

    Maintaining the elderly in their own homes is expressed as the preferred option but care in the home is in reality very expensive to provide. The time spent moving between clients is not costed realistically; care workers are rushed, cut corners and become demotivated and therefore uncaring. It is not fair just to blame the carers; it is a system problem; training, monitoring and funding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Appalling news. Thank goodness my grandparents have all their faculties, and each other, at the ripe age of 77. It's unfathomable to me that because of "money" we can't look after elderly people. We will ALL be old one day, if we're lucky enough not to die inbetween. If we have money to fork out for irresponsible 16 year old mothers, we should have money for quality care for the elderly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Intentions are normally good but not enough money or time and isn't it just typical of the BRITISH that we can spend Billions fighting pointless wars, and cut the pensions of those that have done their Bit. Soluition get the Government to use compulsory service to look after our old folk PROPERLY. I know I had to supervise my mums care in Scotland whilst living in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    This story doesn't surprise me in the slightest. I've worked in healthcare for nearly 2 years now and its almost become the norm for this country to treat older people like dirt.
    Care agencies bid in order to provide care for a patient when they leave hospital and whoever bids the LOWEST is the care agency that is employed. No doubt the government will blame front-line workers again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    When you privatise public services, the private sector WILL take their profit, and what s left will provide the service.
    The "Clients" are just a means to an end.
    The same happened to water, gas, electricity, telecoms, postal services, railways,and verty soon the NHS and Police Services.
    When will the British public wake up and stop this creeping cancer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Also the first case study in 'So useless I told them to leave,' is unfair. We can't lift without proper equipment for health+safety. All's well and good expecting us to lift someone until an accident occurs; the client ends up injured on the floor + the carers have permanent back problems.The blame here lies with those who should have assessed their situation and provided equipment,not the carers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    The real problem is "elephant in the room".

    People are living longer who don't produce anything. So what we have is the situation where the young are having to support the old. But the old have become so numerous and the burden has become unsustainable. What are we to do ?

    I guess that evolution will sort it out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I do agree with a lot of what has been said but not everyone is the same. I know that I fully care for each client that I work with, no matter how long the call takes or if we end up going over our alloted time there (you can't predict when accidents happen and they often will). I think poor management needs to be addressed and staff allocation properly sorted as clients and carers will benefit.

  • Comment number 264.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    This story was quite rightly headlining BBC News earlier today and now it has been relegated by some resignation in the 'church'? Interesting how news is managed in this country especially by an Auntie of brainwashing that relies on parliament for a TV tax....

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I used to be a community carer & you are pushed to your limits.There is no travel time between calls & you end up running late cause a client needed more care or due to traffic then you are expected some how to catch up.You get put in situations where you are suppsed to be in 2 places at once due to lack of carers and then been told off for not being on time or seeming rushed.Carers need help too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    @258 'scarletassassin'.
    OK. I'm on 4 DOs and adjusting from shifts. Feel guilty about my last post. Did not mean to suggest you hammered the NHS. Tired. Apologies.

    It's all very sensitive right now on HYS with so many comments from paid international posters with no idea of reality in the UK. A tricky balance the public in UK who don't know what ConDems are doing and allowing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.


    by the way Cumbria may as well be outside the uk because its as far away from London as you can get before you have to abide by Scottish Law

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I also despair with my Mums care company she has got carers that are very good, also, many that need further training! She is often given a yogurt to eat without a spoon, her door has been left unlocked she has to make sure her that her windows are shut before her curtains are pulled. She is often sent new carers so has to explain everything to them which is quite trying for her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    I have had another option someone has suggested the Care Quality Commission too - thank you for your suggestions

    I have never hammered the NHS or the people that work within the NHS as my mum worked for the NHS early in her life - thank you for your suggestions - I dont know if you saw a lady on ITN News (am I aloud to talk about the other side) winning her case

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    @253 'scarletassassin'.
    OK. You obviously read my post @ 252 to pass your info' to Newsnight/Panorama to fight on your behalf. Have you tried Citizens Advice? I'm running out of options to suggest for you - unless you want to talk to me online although, as an NHS professional I've little patience with those who hammer the NHS with no knowledge of reality?

    I think ur posting from outside UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Unfortunately there is no provision for 24 hour community care in England. A maximum package of care is 2 carers 4 times a day. 24 hour care at home does not exist even for those who wish to die at home. Families have to step in to fill the gaps, if they can. The resources are simply not there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I agree with the findings of Which - I was a carer myself and have seen good and bad provision. But why is this article comment enabled, when two other Beeb articles on the proposed sell off of the NHS and farming out of health services to private companies via the Health and Social Care Bill aren't? This is what's caused all the bother in elderly care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Since Ted Knight's Fight Thatcher Cuts in the Seventies the headline cuts have consistently been made to 'Frontline Services' and never via a true examination of pay trees let alone productivity. Elderly Services will not willingly relinquish the numbers in the Management Tree below them as this, in turn, diminishes their own role, and thus their own salary and 'status'. Tragic & predictable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    I havent denied of having this evidence but like myself many people dont know whom to give this too...as for my MP like all are afraid of negative publicity and like as he put it ' LIKE TO KEEP THINGS WITHIN THE COUNTY' and dont like negative media like ALL MP'S they like to be seen in a positive light...;)


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