Home care: 'So useless I told them to leave'

The consumer group Which? has described the standards of care provided for older people in their homes in the UK as "shocking and disgraceful".

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

The investigation found cases of missed visits, food left out of reach, medication not given and people left in soiled beds.

BBC News website readers have shared their experiences of the home care system.

John, Suffolk

I am full time sole carer for my wife who has advanced MS. When we had to call in carers it was useless.

She received home care when I was admitted to hospital. The carers made twice daily visits for 20 minutes.

She was left sitting and sleeping on a sofa for three days and nights because they refused to transfer her to her wheelchair. This meant no washing, no toileting and if it hadn't been for neighbours no food.

On the third day a male carer arrived who was ex-merchant navy and he finally lifted her off the sofa and helped her dress.

When I was there with the carers they told me to sit and relax. But then constantly came asking me to lift my wife because they refused to lift her.

They were useless so I finally told them to leave.

I have had to cancel carers on other occasions because they barely could speak English and didn't seem to have a clue as how to do their job.

These events occurred BEFORE the so-called economic crisis and have been endemic in the system for many years. Needless to say I'm not impressed.

We haven't complained about any of the carers we've had as we believe it will only lead to us receiving worse treatment by the staff in the future.

We know of people who have complained and have received worse care in response.

I'm an ex-nurse and I currently do voluntary work at the local hospice. The volunteers' care and compassion in the hospice puts the home care provision to shame.

If it can be done properly in a volunteer hospice it can be done properly in home care.

Alan Mackinnon, Hull

Image caption "I'm worried about the future as I get older and more disabled - The system needs a shake-up now"

I am 72-years-old and have serious chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

I need care to clean my home, shop and also to bathe.

The quality of care from registered agencies has left much to be desired and I have been forced to arrange my own care and fund it myself as a result.

I have had quite a bit of contact with care companies and carers and it is my opinion that care companies offer very little training and do not supervise their staff.

They pay as little as they can get away with and work their staff like slaves - it's unsurprising that this leads to abuses, if only due to the workers' frustration with their working conditions.

I have also heard from various carers that they don't get paid for travelling time so they are always having to rush off.

The people running the companies just want to make as much money as possible.

Now I pay a friend privately to help me clean the flat and I pay a local chap to bring me one meal per day.

I'm worried about the future as I get older and more disabled. The system needs a shake-up now.

Fiona Pimm, Bristol

I have worked in home care for 14 years and I can assure you that not all home care companies are like this. I now work for a small home care company and we do our utmost to make sure the times allocated to those who need care is spent with them.

We do not have carers travelling from one side of town to the other - where possible we are kept in one area so we have as much time as possible with the client.

Carers are spot checked on a regular basis and we have a close working relationship with family members.

We have a very experienced and fully trained team of staff who are very caring and put 100% into their job role.

I believe these problems that you and others are highlighting are a result of big companies taking on care packages whether or not they have the capacity to deal with them, but they do it anyway because they are only interested in making money.

As a result visits are over lapped, carers are forced to travel from one side of town to the other, there are unreliable staff who constantly go off sick due to being overworked, and it's the client who suffers as a result.

There are companies out there who you can really trust but finding them is a problem.

There should be a proper recommendation programme in place to help people do this.

Jan McCarthy, Sunderland

I am a full-time carer for my mum, who has lived with me for two years.

We also have a carer who comes in three times a week. She is lovely, we have no problems with her.

But these carers have to rush from job to job and are given no travelling time.

Our carer could be scheduled for an 08:15 visit to us for 45 minutes and then given a job at 9 at another person's house.

This person may live a 15-minute walk away. The carer has to decide whether she should leave our visit or turn up late for the next person.

The majority of carers seem to be paid the minimum wage and it is seen as an unskilled job, similar to being a cleaner.

There is no real financial encouragement for family members to care for elderly relatives either.

As a parent you are given child tax credit, but someone like myself, who has given up full-time employment to look after my parent, is given £55 a week to do so.

If my mother was in care it would cost the government at least £450 per week.

Cutting out these private companies and taking care back to the councils would halve the care bill in one fell swoop.

Instead of allowing companies to profit from elderly care, allow better restriction and checking of quality of care given.

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