Shocking failings in home care

A Which? undercover investigation into the home care system has found some shocking examples of poor care of older people, including missed visits and vulnerable people left with soiled bedclothes, with food left out of reach, and with vital medication missed.

Which? asked people to keep diaries over the course of a week detailing their experiences of home care. 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 diabetic medication.

Some people did report carers going the extra mile to give excellent service, especially those with regular careworkers.

However in a separate Which? survey, one of the most common complaints reported was missed and rushed visits, with relatives often left to step in. Nearly half (47%) of respondents able to tell us about visits reported at least one had been missed in the past six months. Worse still, 62% hadn’t been warned in advance.

In many cases, our diarists said that a good service was provided only after complaining, with some family members being forced to make continuous phone calls and to have a constant battle with agencies.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says:

“Our undercover investigation found some disgraceful examples of care with elderly people being given little time or respect.

“The Government can no longer claim to be shocked as report after report highlights the pitiful state of care for older people. If they are serious about ensuring vulnerable people are treated with dignity, then we must see real action because every day they delay is another day older people risk being neglected.”

Notes to Editor

1. For a copy of the article from the April issue of Which?, The truth about care at home, accompanying video/audio content, or to arrange an interview, please contact Susan Golaszewski on 020 7770  7615

1. Home care (also known as domiciliary care) refers to care and support provided to people in their own home by paid careworkers. It enables people to be supported to remain in their own homes

2. During a week in January 2012, Which? asked 30 older people and/or their carers to record every detail of home care visits they received (not including live-in care). Using voice recorders, paper diaries and computers, they logged 287 visits showing the impact of good and bad care.

3. In January 2012, we surveyed 926 people on the Which? Connect panel who were recipients, or relatives of those receiving home care to find out about their experience.

4. Example quotes:

One daughter commented on a missed visit:

“They missed a day just after Christmas. They incorrectly entered into their database the days we didn’t need care. 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.”

On missing vital medication, one son said:

“There are times when dad, who is diabetic, hasn’t had his insulin on time and it’s vital medication. When I voiced my concerns to the care agency I was just told to find another agency.”

One daughter said on finding her mother left in the dark:

“She can’t see her sandwiches to eat them and hasn’t touched her drinks as she can’t see those either. I can’t express how angry I feel at the carers. There is a printed note on the front door about putting a light on at 4pm as well as a note from me in the kitchen beside the care book. It is also in the care plan. What more can I do?”

But some did identify good service, with one son saying:

“My mum’s carer does things without being asked, such as tidying up, and will do extra things like brushing her shoes. Mum says she’s a ‘real carer’.”

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