Safeguarding should be top priority in care homes.
They are home to many elderly people who could be physically or mentally weak and in need of special care. This sadly means that there is a potential for abuse and neglect.
It is important, therefore, to accurately assess people who will be caring for or visiting vulnerable patients to overcome any possible safeguarding challenges.
Vulnerable adults can be victims of abuse and neglect in various ways and from different people.
The perpetrators of this abuse and neglect can include:
- The staff of the care home
- Friends or relatives of the vulnerable adult
- Doctors, nurses or other health professionals
- Social workers
We’ll dive into some of the safeguarding issues in nursing homes and how they can be avoided.
Having poorly trained staff
Challenges: Poorly trained staff might inadvertently neglect patients under their care. They probably wouldn’t commit any deliberate abuse but may accidently mistreat the vulnerable adults because they lack sufficient knowledge of how to care appropriately.
For example, they might forget to feed them properly or not listen if they are suffering or in need of care or attention.
It is stated in the Telegraph that many “inadequately trained staff” do “not know how to lift patients or care for those with dementia”.
It mentions one case in which a patient with dementia was “left without food for nine hours after care workers failed to turn up”.
This lack of care is shocking and should not be happening in modern homes.
As vulnerable adults are often very frail in both mentality and physical structure they need appropriate handling.
Few poorly trained staff would deliberately hurt anyone, but they might not know how to deal with vulnerable adults suitably.
Subsequently, they may unintentionally emotionally or physically abuse them. Poorly trained staff may also fail to pick up on any signs that their patients are being abused by other people.
The same Telegraph article claims that more than two-fifths of care homes were rated as poor or bad. This is obviously a huge problem which is a big contributor to elderly neglect.
Even more shocking is the Independent stating that “abuse [is] taking place in 99% of care homes”, detailing that the most common type of abuse is keeping a patient waiting for food.
While this abuse is not malicious and could be a result of under-funding and overcrowding of care homes, it is obviously an important issue that must be addressed.
Solution: safeguarding training in care homes is integral to avoiding this type of abuse. It is essential that staff are educated properly and thoroughly to make sure that no patients are neglected. While initial training is crucial, it is also important throughout the nursing staffs’ career.
As per the Care Act 2000, three days of training are required for care home staff each year. This ensures that their knowledge is correct and up to date. Training helps care home staff with all areas, from treating patients to working out how to prioritise tasks; the highest priority being, of course, safeguarding in care homes.
Having staff who are malicious or cruel in intentions
Challenges: Obviously, malicious staff or those who have cruel intentions are the most likely to abuse any vulnerable patients. People with bad intentions may plan to harm and treat their vulnerable patients wrongly through this job.
Sadly, there are a lot of instances of elderly people getting abused in care homes. Incidents like the mistreatment of Joy Lewis, an alzheimers patient, who was abused by three people who were meant to be caring for her, have shocked the nation.
These people are in a position of care, and yet they damage people in sick ways. How can this be avoided?
Solutions: One of the best ways to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to give any staff member a thorough DBS check. This ensures that they don’t have any criminal convictions that could mean that they are an unsavoury character.
Having a criminal conviction does not necessarily not mean that someone cannot work in care homes, but each case must be investigated, and DBS checks do this.
While DBS checks are a great start, they cannot act as a complete assessment of someone’s character. If the person has an unsavory character but has not yet committed any crimes, they cannot be picked up in the DBS check. Therefore, it is important to make the interview process very strict.
Interview questions that care workers are asked could include:
- What do you think a care worker does?
- How have you coped with a stressful experience before?
- How would you maintain someone’s dignity and respect when caring for them?
- How would you know someone is safe and healthy when going into their home and what would you do if they looked like they were being harmed?
These questions, especially the last one, are well positioned to try to detect any potential perpetrators. Maintaining this stringent interview process is vital to detect any malicious characters.
Someone outside of the care home
Challenges: In this case, the abuser could be someone who the victim trusts and knows, such as a ‘friend’, relative, or even a doctor or nurse. Because they are coming from a position of trust, the vulnerable patient is less likely to talk about any wrongdoings that have been committed against them by these people.
Family abuse can take many forms. Out of care homes, it can be either deliberate or passive abuse. Passive abuse generally takes the form of neglect; when the family member is unable to provide for their elderly relatives. However, this is less likely in care homes when staff are responsible for patient care.
Financial abuse is something that elderly patients often suffer from – and frequently the perpetrator is a family member. It can include theft or forced will writing. Family members could also commit emotional or physical abuse against the elderly patient that they visit.
Social workers, rogue doctors or nurses can also be abusers. They could abuse the person emotionally, physically or sexually. It seems shocking that a doctor, who is in the ultimate position of care, could commit an atrocity to a vulnerable patient, but sadly this has occurred many times all over the country.
Solutions: Ways to combat this is to look for signs that a vulnerable person is being abused. These include unexplained bruises or abnormal behavior. There are obviously many more, and it is crucial that care staff are trained to look out for them.
It is also important to encourage the victim to speak up about any potential abuse and to educate them to know what this abuse might be.
Another great way to combat this challenge is to get to know anyone who has intimate contact with people in the care homes. Having a good rapport with any visitors and healthcare providers means that you will have a good idea of whether the patient may need extra safeguarding.
You will also be able to keep an eye on who visits the patients and how they may be affected. Make sure that you also communicate with other employees about who is coming in and visiting the vulnerable person.
There are regrettably many individuals who can perpetrate abuse to vulnerable people in care home situations. As some of those have the highest positions of care, safeguarding issues in care homes are something that need to be addressed as priority.
A stringent hiring process and training programme which not only drills into employees what is expected of them but also how to look for signs of abuse is one of the most crucial ways to carry out safeguarding in a care home for the elderly.
This is essential to ensure that the ever-increasing elderly population of the country are protected and kept safe.