Spying on carers risks damaging the trust we need to raise standards

Finding care for frail parents in their declining years has just been recognised as one of the most stressful decisions we will ever have to make. According to a new Care Quality Commission survey, it is more stressful than getting married or divorced or choosing children’s schooling. Central in this stress is the fear that carers might not just be inadequate but cruel – understandable given recent court cases exposing extreme abuse in care homes. But is the solution to use secret cameras to monitor carers? Or would this exacerbate stress by adding further distrust and creating a surveillance mentality towards work that essentially depends on good and trusting human relations?

While falling short of actually recommending that relatives should install surveillance cameras, the CQC is nevertheless endorsing their use by issuing guidelines for relatives considering such action. Andrea Sutcliffe, the watchdog’s chief inspector of adult social care, acknowledges that this is controversial. Some people, she says, will think of her as the “devil incarnate”, but she defends the guidelines as guidance for those who choose this route.

I certainly don’t think these suggestions are diabolic: they are a legitimate response to heart-breaking cases, like that of 79-year-old dementia sufferer Gladys Wright, whose abuse at the hands of “carer” Daniel Baynes was exposed by a secret camera; and it’s not as if surveillance in public spaces isn’t now routine. But nor can I embrace the move either.

Read more

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/07/spying-carers-cameras-care-homes-raising-standards

 

Loneliness is not a bug with a technological solution

Helping elderly people to use the internet is a good idea. But let’s not mistake broadband connections for social ones.

In the UK, four out of 10 over-65s do not have internet access. At a time when so much of our lives is conducted online – the payment of bills, access to information – that should be a real source of concern about potential social exclusion.

But does this mean that by widening internet access, elderly people will feel more socially connected? Or, even, more radically, as a new report suggests, could this be a solution for loneliness in old age?

Read more

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/28/loneliness-technological-elderly-internet-broadband

 

Inside the hospital that’s leading a kindness revolution: Concluding our series on the crisis of compassion in nursing

You might expect Ward B47 to be a depressing place.

The majority of patients are aged over 80 and the expectation is that 30 per cent will have passed away after three months.

All have mental health issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or confusion.

Full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2277169/Inside-hospital-thats-leading-kindness-revolution-Concluding-series-crisis-compassion-nursing.html

Aged 94, and frail as a china doll, Sophia struggled to get out of bed. ‘Come on!’ said the nurse. ‘You’re just being lazy’

On Saturday, in the first part of an uncompromising investigation into nursing in NHS hospitals, Ros Coward asked why so many nurses seem to have stopped caring for their patients. Today, in the wake of the damning report into Stafford Hospital, she suggests the troubling answer…

Sarah Allen is in her 20s.

After a recent asthma attack, she found herself in an unusual situation when she was admitted to a ward in a large London hospital where the other patients were mainly elderly, and several were suffering from dementia.

There, she was able to see for herself whether the terrible stories of patient neglect in the NHS — which have become so common in recent years — were true.

What she saw shocked her.

Full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2276796/Aged-94-frail-china-doll-Sophia-struggled-bed-Come-said-nurse-Youre-just-lazy.html

Why have so many nurses stopped CARING? An investigation into the crisis-hit NHS

  • Robert Francis QC’s report was merely the latest damning indictment
  • Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that cruelty and neglect had become normal in some hospitals and care homes

My 89-year-old mother has suffered with dementia for the past seven years. Over that time she has been in and out of hospital. Some of her care has been excellent, but some has been shocking.

Once, when she collapsed, she was taken to Kingston Hospital, in South-West London. After a long and stressful evening in A&E, a bed was eventually found for her at midnight. 

What a relief, I thought — she was safe and I could go home. As I stooped to whisper goodbye, a nurse shoved something in my face. ‘Sign this,’ she said bluntly. It was a form to absolve the hospital for any loss of my mother’s valuables.

Full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2275943/NHS-Why-nurses-stopped-CARING.html

Families must not have the right to play executioner

Relatives are too close for objectivity. Doctors are fallible. And society is intolerant of frailty. That’s why a judge was correct to rule a brain-damaged woman should be allowed to live

High Court judge Mr Justice Baker has ruled that a brain-damaged 52-year-old woman in a ‘minimally conscious state’ should be kept alive, denying her family’s request to withdraw the life support sustaining her.

We have much to thank him for in making this judgment. 

He has not only upheld the legal presumption that exists in favour of preserving life — and which has been under such sustained attack in recent years — but he has also done so in a case that poignantly illustrates exactly why this presumption should remain.

Full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2043582/Families-right-play-executioner.html

Southern Cross wakes us up to the business of caring

We can’t leave our elderly to the market’s mercies – yet this government will not commit to averting a funding catastrophe

Southern Cross was owned by a private equity firm using care homes for exactly the kind of property speculation that underlay the banking crisis. So it might be tempting to think its demise is mainly indicative of just how catastrophic that business model turned out to be. But it’s even more a reminder of a subject we often choose to ignore: how we look after our elderly. The collapse of the UK’s largest residential care home provider is a shocking reminder that care of our elderly is in the hands of people who are in the business of care for profits – and that their business is almost as frail as the people they are looking after.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/jul/11/southern-cross-business-of-caring

If ever there were proof of the folly of doctors playing God, it’s this man’s barbaric death

Last Christmas, I attended a carol service at a church in London. Amid the festive bustle, I sat opposite a woman and her elderly mother.

The daughter placed a tender hand on her mother’s shoulder and gently guided her through the carols, helping her remember words that were now fading from the old lady’s memory.

I watched as the daughter looked after this tiny, fragile little bird of a mother — so frail she looked as if a puff of wind might have blown her away.

Full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1220221/ROS-COWARD-If-proof-folly-doctors-playing-God-mans-barbaric-death.html

The health service’s dementia shame

I can identify with John Suchet’s brave and moving discussion of coping with his wife’s disease. Sufferers have too little support

John Suchet has done an incredibly brave thing talking so openly about his wife’s dementia because, as he himself said, it isn’t his illness, it’s hers. And that could be seen as “a betrayal”. Why “betrayal”? After all, he spoke so movingly and so tenderly about her and his grief at losing her this way, and there was nothing disrespectful at all in what he said about her.

The answer is that when you are dealing with someone with dementia you never really know how much they know – or remember – about what has been said about them. And if his wife could, or does, remember something of what has been said, she might feel shame.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/feb/17/dementia-health-service

Have I done enough?

For two years Ros Coward has written a column about caring for her exuberant, but increasingly dependent mother. Here, in a final instalment, she pays a fond tribute to Sybil and explains why her forthright and moving chronicle has to end

It’s Mum’s birthday and I’m not spending it with her. I’m away. In Amsterdam, in fact. This is the first time for many years that I haven’t been with her on her birthday. I ring before leaving to say sorry that I won’t be with her to celebrate her 84th birthday. “Is it my birthday?” she says. “Oh well. I’m not bothered about that stuff. I’m all discombobulated.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/18/family-longtermcare