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Home » Latest News » Care Home Clarity and Concerns

Care Home Clarity and Concerns

Care Home Clarity and Concerns

This article will consider the expectations of care within a residential care home setting, the problems which sadly can occur and what support and protection is available in such instances.

With the advances in health care, people are now living longer than ever before. Currently, one in five people in the UK are over the age of 60, and this number is only expected to rise. Therefore, being able to maintain a good quality of life during our more senior years is a crucial matter for us all.

While these statistics  are very encouraging, the reality is that as people live longer they are more likely to develop associated problems such as long term medical conditions, frailty, dementia, disability, dependence on others and in some cases social isolation.

Historically, the expectation was that the older generation would live and be cared for by their families. However, as society has changed this may no longer be a viable option for many families in which case the best possible alternative needs to be considered.

Care Providers

There are many different types of external care support available, for instance carers can visit an individual in their own home or they could move into sheltered accommodation with a warden, alternatively, there is residential or nursing home care.

People may also seek care for different reasons, for example, short term care may be required following treatment for an injury. Whereas long-term care could be to help support an individual’s needs to provide them with a better quality of life. 

This article will consider the expectations of care within a residential care home setting, the problems which sadly can occur and what support and protection is available in such instances.

Residential Care

It is a common misconception that residential care homes and nursing homes are one and the same, but this is not true. A care home is a generic term for an institution which provides live in ‘home style’ accommodation with 24 hour a day supervised staffing for elderly residents who may be unable to look after themselves. These can be privately owned or run by a local authority.  Whereas a nursing home equally provides 24 hours care and support but there will always be a registered nurse on duty to provide more complex care.

In the UK around 400,000 older people live in care homes and in the majority of cases the staff are compassionate and provide an excellent level of care. However, there can be times when unfortunately, the care provided falls below a reasonable standard and this can lead to serious injury, long term health issues or even death.

By law, all care homes in England are responsible for making sure that the care they provide meets national standards of quality and safety, which is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC monitor and inspect care homes and publish their findings, including performance ratings to assist people when choosing care.

When choosing a care home it is vital that families are confident that the care will be adequate to meet their loved one’s needs and that their loved ones will be treated with the respect, love and care they deserve.

It is important that to take time to visit and research a care home before making a decision. Do not be afraid to ask questions about the qualifications of the staff, the care that will be provided, daily routines and the policies they have in place.

It is recognised that older people are less likely to complain about care services and indeed are often unsure who to approach, so  if in the future you consider a care home is failing your loved one, you may have to help voice their concerns.

As in everyday life, there may be times when things happen in a care home which simply cannot be avoided. However, given that many residents in a care home will be vulnerable, there needs to be strict policies and procedures in place to try and minimise the risk of  injury occurring and when these policies are not followed this can lead to neglect.

Examples of neglect which can occur:

Pressure Sores (bedsores)

These are primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin and can affect any part of the body. Pressure sores most frequently develop on the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine. Early symptoms of a pressure sore include the skin becoming discoloured (often red), the area may also be painful or itchy.  It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible to avoid the sore becoming an open wound or blister.
People with mobility problems, urinary or bowel incontinence, dehydration or medical conditions which affect blood supply are at a higher risk of suffering pressure sores, so appropriate pressure relieving devices may need to be made available, and skin checks need to be routinely performed.

Delay in seeking support from external health care professionals.

As care homes do not have a registered nurse on duty to provide care, it is up to the staff within the care home to recognise if there is a decline in an individual’s health and take action by seeking the opinion of external health care professionals, such as a District Nurse or GP when needed.

Sadly, on occasion, symptoms go unnoticed for days or even weeks resulting in a delay in treatment being sought which can then lead to more serious problems, with a longer recovery period and, in some cases, the need for hospital admission.

For example, when an individual has symptoms suggestive of a urinary tract infection or a chest infection.

Medication errors

Medicine should be stored correctly and administered as per the doctor’s advice. The care home should have medication charts in place to help prevent errors occurring, for instance an overdose or incorrect medication being given.

If there is a medication error urgent medical attention should be obtained and the incident should be reported to the CQC.

 

Malnutrition/ dehydration

A crucial part of the care provided is to monitor an individual’s nutrition and hydration and to seek medical advice when needed.

Malnutrition/ dehydration may occur due to an individual losing the ability to eat and drink and the staff simply not having the time to ensure that an individual’s requirements are being met. Other instances may be a drink packet not being opened or, the drink may be out of reach, these can all easily be avoided with proper care. Alternatively, there may be a more serious underlying health problem preventing an individual eating and drinking such as a difficulty swallowing which will require a review by an external health care professional.

Malnutrition and dehydration can cause serious health concerns and unnecessary hospital admissions.

Falls

As we get older, we become at a higher risk of falling. A care home should perform a Falls Risk Assessment to identify any risk and put in place a care plan in order to ensure appropriate measures are in place in order to try and minimise injury.

A care home should consider the frequency of falls, a person’s vision, medication, mobility and cognitive function to name but a few factors when determining your loved one’s care plan.

What to do next

If you, or a loved one, consider that you/they have been subject to neglect within a care home it is important that you voice your concerns at the earliest opportunity and seek advice to help prevent injury occurring.

It is advisable that you raise a formal complaint with the care home, who, by law, must provide details of their complaint procedure to you upon request. They will then conduct an investigation and provide a formal written response. If you remain unhappy following their response, then you can consider escalating matters to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who will not settle the complaint, but will use the information provided to decide where/ when to inspect a care service and will take action, as necessary.  

If addition, you may wish to seek legal advice from a solicitor in which case please do not hesitate to call us for a no-obligation chat.