Home care for elderly 'disgraceful'
Older people are suffering "disgraceful" home care including missed medication and confinement to soiled beds, an undercover investigation has revealed.
Undercover researchers for the Which? consumer group reported missed visits, food left out of reach and vulnerable people left without a way of getting to the bathroom.
Which? asked 30 people or their carers to keep diaries over the course of a week in January detailing their experiences of home care, also known as domiciliary care, by paid workers.
One elderly woman was left alone in the dark for hours unable to find food or drink. Another was left without a walking frame, leaving her unable to get to the bathroom, while one man was not given vital diabetes medication, the watchdog said. Which? declined to name the agencies involved, saying it wants to protect those people who gave feedback.
One unnamed daughter reported: "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."
A 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."
Others 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."
However, a separate Which? survey found one of the most common complaints was missed and rushed visits, with relatives often left to step in. Almost half of respondents (47%) able to answer a question about visits said at least one had been missed in the past six months, while 62% of those had not been warned in advance.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) chief executive Cynthia Bower said: "Home care is one of the most difficult areas of care to monitor because it is delivered behind closed doors which is why, starting next month, CQC will be carrying out a themed inspection programme of 250 providers of domiciliary care services. CQC inspectors will be joined by professional experts and experts by experience: people who have a personal experience of using home care services.
"We will be focusing on dignity and respect, the safeguarding of people in vulnerable circumstances and how well supported and trained home care staff are to undertake these most important care tasks. We will use a range of ways of checking up on these services, including going into people's homes, contacting people who use services and their families and talking to local groups who represent the users of home care services."