- Sarah Whitebloom
Squalid, filthy and inhumane: another week in the life of Britain's care homes.
Dreadful living conditions, fear of assault and tears of misery and frustration have recently been found in British residential homes, according to official reports last week, where instead of care, vulnerable people were treated in a shamefully undignified way.
Every week it is the same. As well as enduring slapdash care, aimed at saving money, frail and older people are often left alone, without help, care or company. One was discovered by the Care Quality Commission to be on the brink of malnutrition while others were living in an almost feral state – unkempt, with long dirty nails and hair unwashed for months.
We have become so accustomed to disgraceful conditions in our care homes, that this is not seen as a ‘story’ by most news media – even if there have been deaths and serious injuries. It is not news - because it happens all the time. Every week there are more harrowing revelations of the miserable lives and appalling conditions in care homes. OLM makes no apology for highlighting the worst cases each week. These are someone’s parents, someone's siblings, once they someone’s little children. Their only crime? To be old or vulnerable.
Today, we have two contenders for the Worst Care Home of the Week – Abbotsford Nursing Home in Manchester and Grenville Court in Norwich. Both appear perfectly presentable and are home to dozens of older people. But each was served with a damning ‘Inadequate’ notice by the CQC last week and the regulator’s reports make for highly-uncomfortable reading.
There were significant and serious shortfalls in care, at Grenville Court in Norwich, according to the CQC. And the inspectors awarded the home four ‘Inadequate’ ratings, and one ‘Requires Improvement’ grade, for everything from safety to care to management. The inspectors highlighted considerable safety worries and a lack of concern about the dignity of the residents.
They found squalid, filthy and freezing cold conditions – although it was the dead of winter. And it emerged some residents had not been washed properly for many months while others were seen to be in an unkempt, dirty state with greasy, matted hair. The stench was so bad in some areas that relatives said they could not enter certain rooms.
Even bedding was found to be filthy or sometimes make-shift and elderly residents were forced to sleep without proper sheets or duvets or covers.
The inspectors said: ‘During our inspection visit we saw that many people were in their bedrooms with the doors closed. We observed that one person was distressed and crying out but did not receive appropriate attention from staff when they needed it. This person's relative told us that whenever they visited the home their family member was always alone in their room. They felt this was because they often became distressed and cried out. They said they did not feel that staff managed this well. Another person was crying out throughout the day of our inspection. This person told us, "I just want somebody to come and talk to me."’
It was Abbotsford’s seventh bad report since 2011 and was sparked by allegations that residents were being abused. The home was awarded a full five negative ratings – for every aspect of life from safety to management.
The inspectors did not report on any abuse but they did find that residents – many from the Chinese, Caribbean and Pakistani communities – were routinely treated in an undignified way. People asking for drinks were ignored, inspectors witnessed a frail individual being manhandled by staff and they reported serious weight loss problems.
A major concern was in terms of safety and the basic provision of care, in that the home failed to provide sufficient staff who could communicate with a large group of non-English speakers.