Short staffed care homes ‘failing elderly’

150 Years German Red Cross: Senior Citizens Care

The residential care system is failing the elderly because of staff shortages, according to public service union UNISON.

According to the survey of 1,000 private and local authority care staff, 83% said they were so rushed they were compromising the dignity and well-being of the people they were looking after with 80% regularly working through their breaks.

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.

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“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.”

Nearly nine in ten care workers (89 per cent) said a lack of staff was to blame for the inability to provide the most basic levels of care, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) not having the time to help elderly people eat and drink.

More than a quarter of care workers reported often being too busy to take people to the toilet (26 per cent), or notice if a resident’s health had deteriorated.

Almost a third (32 per cent) said there was often not enough time to help residents wash their hair, with more than half saying they could not find time to cut residents’ nails (56 per cent).

Workers said they were rarely able to stop for a brief chat with the people they were looking after or take them outside for a breath of fresh air (83 per cent).

Although staff appeared 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) had training for those who have a physical or learning disability.

Over a quarter of employers  (27 per cent) were forcing staff to ration equipment like wheelchairs, wet wipes, gloves, continence pads and hoists. Some staff said they were resorting to re-using continence pads on residents because of budget cutbacks.

Other issues highlighted included a lack of safety checks on residents and not having enough time to do the necessary paperwork for care plans.

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The author Lee Peart

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