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‘Shocking’ neglect in some Northern Ireland care homes

By Lisa Smyth, Health correspondent

Residential homes across Northern Ireland are failing to meet some of the most basic standards of care for our elderly, a shocking new report has found.

Residents are being left to soil and wet themselves, some are waiting 17 hours between dinner and breakfast, and many are being denied access to healthcare.

Age NI said the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission investigation “is a realistic reminder that the human rights of older people are far from being realised and for many older people, their lives are being blighted by a failure to adhere to human rights principles in the provision of care”.

Among the findings of the report are:

  • Residents not taken to the toilet — one woman told how she often finds her mother in tears and hammering on the cupboard for someone to come and take her to the toilet.
  • Alarm bells are being placed out of reach so residents cannot ask to be taken to the toilet.
  • Some people reported finding their elderly relative covered in faeces or soaked in urine, with one woman in such a bad condition that even her shoes were wet.
  • Delays in dental or speech and language therapist appointments mean that residents are given pureed food for the convenience of staff.
  • Difficulties getting GP visits — in one case a GP was only called after a relative insisted and the resident was found to have suffered a stroke.
  • Residents who can go to the toilet are still being given incontinence pads anyway due to staffing pressures.
  • Residents are not being washed, nails are dirty and uncut and teeth are not cleaned.

The head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Professor Michael O’Flaherty, and Anne O’Reilly, Age NI chief executive, have both called for urgent action from politicians at Stormont.

Ms O’Reilly said: “Age NI is appalled that the basic rights of some older people continue to be compromised in the 21st century.

“It is a disappointing indictment of our health and social care system ... the Northern Ireland Executive has an immediate responsibility to act.”

Background

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission chief commissioner Professor Michael O’Flaherty said that the In Defence Of Dignity report has identified many practices that raise human rights concerns. “We raised concerns about (bad practice). The commission now calls on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement its international human rights obligations,” he said.

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