Elderly and vulnerable people in residential care homes are being left in re-used continence pads, denied trips to the toilet and kept indoors for days on end because of severe staff shortages, according to a survey published today (Sunday) by UNISON.
The vast majority (83 per cent) of care workers say they are so rushed they are compromising the dignity and well-being of the people they look after. This is despite many staff (80 per cent) regularly working through their breaks.
The findings are based on survey responses from more than 1,000 care staff working in private and local authority care homes across the UK.
They present a worrying picture of residents – who can no longer live in their own homes because they need 24-hour support – being denied the most basic levels of care.
Nearly nine in ten care workers (89 per cent) say a lack of staff is to blame, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) not having the time to help elderly people eat and drink.
Care workers report often being too busy to take people to the toilet (26 per cent), or notice if a resident’s health has deteriorated.
Others say there’s often not enough time to help residents wash their hair (32 per cent, or cut their nails (56 per cent). Care workers say they’re rarely able to stop for a brief chat with the people they’re looking after or take them outside for a breath of fresh air (83 per cent).
Although staff appear to be receiving adequate levels of training for conditions such as dementia (88 per cent), only two in five (40 per cent) had received training in how to care for people with mental health issues.
Less than four in ten (38 per cent) had any training relating to diabetes, while only three in ten (31 per cent) for those who have a physical or learning disability.
According to the survey, some employers are forcing staff (27 per cent) to ration equipment like wheelchairs, wet wipes, gloves, continence pads and hoists. Some staff are resorting to re-using continence pads on residents because of budget cutbacks.
Other issues highlighted by the report include a lack of safety checks on residents and not having enough time to do the necessary paperwork for care plans.
UNISON is demanding urgent action and today (Sunday) is launching a special charter aimed at overhauling standards in homes.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The care system is failing the elderly and the vulnerable – and those staff struggling to provide the best support possible.
“Significant change needs to happen if respect and dignity are to be restored and standards improved in care homes.
“Elderly people should expect the best possible care, whether they are being looked after in their own accommodation, or in a care home.
“It’s shocking that some care home owners are being allowed to look after people when they don’t have enough staff to deliver quality care. The government must act now to fund social care properly and protect the most vulnerable in society.”
UNISON’s residential care charter seeks to put an end to the poor treatment of residents and the workers who look after them, and find solutions so dignity and respect are at the heart of the care system.
Notes to editors:
– A total of 1,003 residential care workers across the UK responded to the survey, which was carried out 3 May-2 June 2017. More than two thirds of respondents (69 per cent) work for a private care provider.
– UNISON’s is urging councils and care home owners in both the voluntary and private sector to adopt its new charter so standards of care can be raised. It follows on from the union’s ethical care charter, which aims to raise standards of care for people living in their own homes, as well as enhance the treatment of homecare workers.
– The survey is released to coincide with the start of UNISON’s local government conference later today (Sunday) in Brighton. Head of local government Heather Wakefield will launch the residential care charter at a lunchtime fringe (12.45pm) at the Brighton Centre.
– A summary of the survey results is available here.
– Care workers who responded to the survey said:
- “One of our wheelchair-bound residents will often sit for hours smelling of urine because she’s only allowed two (continence) pads a day.”
- “Continence pads run out twice a month, wheelchairs are either broken, have missing footplates or are too small for larger residents. New wheelchairs are usually donated by the families of residents who have passed away.”
- “Everyone likes to feel like a person, not just a room number. It’s lonely in a busy care home unless you can move around by yourself and have regular visitors.”
- “It’s horrible working twelve and a half hour shifts, running around, and at the end of your shift you haven’t completed all your duties, let alone spent five minutes with a resident without being called away to do something else. We meet only basic needs and then most of them are rushed. It is very sad.”