Elderly home help: 'Too many just don’t care'

Elderly person's hands
Image caption Marilyn Gentle says companies that employ carers should carry out spot checks on their staff

Scores of different carers from different agencies have visited the London home of Marilyn Gentle's mother and father for 13 years, helping to clean, feed, wash and dress the couple.

She believes that fewer than half have actually been committed to their job and offering the right level of service.

She said: "My mum used to be a carer and she loved it - she really can't understand why you would do that if you are not interested in being with people and listening to them.

"To many of them it's just a job, just like when I work as a typist. But it should be more than that."

The home care review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlighted cases of physical abuse, theft and serious neglect.

'Time ticking'

While this is not the experience of Marilyn and her parents, she said they were continually frustrated by an overstretched service frequently staffed by people who appeared to have little time or thought for the people they were visiting.

"They always are in such a hurry - the time is ticking from the moment they come in the door.

"One carer nearly knocked my father down the stairs she was in such a rush to get out of the house.

"They don't communicate with you and they don't listen. It's just lots of little things that add up - you tell them a bin is for recycling, then spend the next day picking waste out of it."

"They break appliances by misusing them, or they put heavy plates on a high shelf where my mum can't get them, even though we've asked them not to.

"There have been times over the past 13 years that I've been in tears because of the level of care."

Spot checks

She said she recognised it was a tough job, and that caring was not a high-paid profession.

"Of course it's hard to look after elderly people, many with dementia and other problems - they can be awkward.

"But some are clearly not that interested and it worries me that this is not spotted by their company during training.

"The companies themselves, I feel, need to do spot checks, turn up at clients' and see what is going on."

While standards were no worse or better than a decade ago, she said, there were noticeable differences between different agencies.

"Councils put the services out to tender, and this often means the service deteriorates as another agency takes over.

"We have had some absolutely gorgeous people, but they just seem to get frustrated and leave. There is a wonderful carer we have at the moment, so we are just wondering how long she'll last."

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