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Care home assault cases double

 

The number of reported assaults in care homes has more than doubled in three years, shocking figures reveal today.

Police forces from across England and Wales received almost 2,500 reports of assaults in care homes in the 12 months to April – up from the 1,100 reported three years previously.

In total, officers recorded a staggering 5,400 reports of crimes in care homes last year – including reports of neglect, ill-treatment, blackmail and even a case of ‘administered poison’.

Worryingly, the true toll of crime is likely to be even higher as less than half of police forces responded to the Freedom of Information request.

The figures are the latest to illustrate the scale of the crisis in the social care sector, which has been beset by funding problems, care home closures, staff shortages and allegations of ill-treatment.

Carer ‘hit granny’s head against wall’ 

Grace Rees, 94, was interviewed by police when a carer allegedly hit her head against a wall.

It was the first in a series of worrying incidents said to have taken place at £2,300-a-month Abbeywood House in Torquay, Devon.

Dementia sufferer Mrs Rees suffered a lump to her temple after the incident which occurred when the care worker tried to move her.

The grandmother said her arms, which were stopping her head hitting the wall, were moved by the carer. The employee was suspended, but denied assault.

Series of incidents: Grace Rees

Series of incidents: Grace Rees

Grace Rees

Grace Rees

Series of incidents: Grace Rees, left, and injuries she suffered

A police report said: ‘Police have accepted Mrs Grace Rees’s complaint and her account is believed, although there is no evidence to take the case any further forward.’ Mrs Rees was moved to Abbeywood in 2014 after a rat entered her old nursing home – Hadleigh Court, also in Torquay – and bit an elderly resident’s face.

In April this year, an ambulance was called to assist Mrs Rees when she fell out of her bed. Paramedics were stunned to find only two workers on duty – one an ‘inexperienced’ 18-year-old – for 21 residents. Mrs Rees’s daughter Leonie, 57, is moving her mother to a new home.

Abbeywood House said last night: ‘Abbeywood House takes its responsibilities to all its residents extremely seriously. Due to medical confidentiality we are unable to comment on individual cases, but we have been in regular contact with Leonie Rees to ensure that her mother receives the most appropriate care for her needs.’ 

Only last week, the Daily Mail’s Investigations Unit revealed how the crisis has become so severe, four in ten homes are failing inspections. 

An audit revealed that 38 per cent of more than 5,000 homes reported on this year have been declared inadequate or in need of improvement, with some elderly residents left for up to nine hours without food.

Last night, campaigners described the latest police figures as ‘horrifying’.

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd said: ‘Elderly people deserve to look forward to retirement without worrying about becoming victims of crime.

‘Instead, hundreds of vulnerable older people are being assaulted or stolen from in the very places they are meant to be cared for, while too often the cowardly criminals that prey on them are being let off the hook.

‘This situation is completely unacceptable. We need to invest more in the police and in our care homes to prevent older people becoming sitting ducks for criminals.’

Humiliation of bishop stricken by dementia 

A former bishop was ‘humiliated’ in his final weeks by a carer who forced him to have cold showers and slapped his bottom.

The Rt Rev John Satterthwaite, pictured, was 88 and suffering from dementia when Kate Rogowski subjected him to ‘unnecessary degradation’ at The Lodge nursing home at the Buckshaw Retirement Village in Chorley, Lancashire.

Mr Satterthwaite, the former bishop of Gibraltar, was said to be respected around the globe for his significant roles within the Anglican Church.

It is understood a concerned member of staff raised the alarm when they saw Rogowski, 25, taking advantage of the bishop’s vulnerability. In February 2015, Rogowski was found guilty of assault after a trial and jailed for eight weeks.

But the clergyman did not live to see justice done as he died in May 2014 – a month after the incident came to light. The Lodge is currently failing, according to the CQC’s most recent report.

At the time of Rogowski’s sentence, the Diocese of Carlisle and the Diocese of Blackburn issued a joint statement which said: ‘We are really shocked to discover this sad end to the very distinguished life of Bishop John.

‘He was a tremendous character with a huge fund of interesting stories about his time as Bishop of Europe.’

Hica Group, which manages The Lodge, said: ‘This was an unacceptable and distressing incident that occurred more than three years ago. At Hica, we operate a zero-tolerance approach to any forms of abuse or poor care and when this incident arose we took prompt and immediate action. Nothing similar has ever been reported at The Lodge.’

Today’s figures reveal that the number of alleged crimes in care homes soared from 3,460 in 2014/15 to 4,677 in 2015/16 and to 5,398 in 2016/17. Within that total, 2,483 assaults were reported to police in 2016/17 – up from 1,163 in 2014/15. A total of 756 cases were ‘assault with injury’.

Allegations of theft increased from 964 to 1079 over the period, and cases of burglary jumped from 281 in 2014/15 to 356 in 2016/17.

The actual figures are likely to be much higher as they account for only 16 police forces who responded to the FoI request from the Lib Dems, out of a total of 43 forces.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘These figures are deeply distressing and show that too many older people living in care homes are not being adequately protected from abuse and neglect.

‘Any abuse of older people is completely unacceptable, and we need a zero tolerance approach, whether the abuse is physical or mental cruelty, financial manipulation, theft or neglect.’

She said care homes had a ‘moral and professional duty of care’ and ‘pressures on our social care system can never be a legitimate excuse for them failing’ in that duty.

Neglect of Parkinson’s sufferer caught by son 

When Clive Morris became worried his frail, Parkinson’s-stricken mother was being neglected, he installed a spy camera in her room.

He had previously raised concerns that former dental nurse Sheila Morris, 84, was not being given enough to drink at the £5,000-a-month Priory Court Care Home in Epsom, Surrey.

But he instead filmed harrowing footage which he claims shows Mrs Morris being violently sick throughout the night without carers making any checks.

Her bedroom door was closed at 11.30pm on May 4 last year, and carers did not re-enter the room until 6.30am. This was despite her illness requiring a minimum of three checks each night.

Loving son: Sheila Morris with Clive

Loving son: Sheila Morris with Clive

Loving son: Sheila Morris with Clive

When they returned, the footage showed that Mrs Morris was coughing and in distress with vomit around her mouth and on her sheets. Mr Morris, 47, was so concerned his mother could have ‘drowned’ in her own vomit, he made a complaint of neglect to Surrey Police. The matter was referred to the Care Quality Commission, which Mr Morris accused of ‘turning a blind eye’.

‘They never spoke to us or even asked to see the footage,’ he told the Mail. ‘That, to me, demonstrates utter contempt.’

Priory Court said: ‘Priory Court is committed to providing high quality care and service to its residents, their relatives and staff.

‘Mrs Morris became a resident in March 2015 and left in July 2016. Issues raised by her relatives, about her care, were thoroughly investigated by social services and the CQC which rates the home as good. The CQC closed the investigation in March 2017.’

 

Rob Burley, director of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Care homes must be an environment where residents feel safe and supported, not one that puts them at risk of exploitation.

‘It’s horrifying that people in care homes are falling victim to crime, but worse still that this appears to be on the rise. Almost three-quarters of care home residents have dementia, which means they are especially vulnerable.’

The figures cover all types of reported assaults in care homes, including those on residents by staff, incidents between residents, and attacks on care workers themselves, as well as assaults on the mentally ill and some children. However, it is feared that attacks by staff on residents are by far the most common.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: ‘When there are cases of assault reported, these should be investigated and action taken where necessary. Any instance where safety is compromised is unacceptable and councils, providers, health and the Care Quality Commission must redouble our collective efforts to ensure people’s safety.’

Debbie Ivanova, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care for the South region, said: ‘I expect that local police forces will have taken appropriate action in any instance when a crime has been committed in a care home, so that those responsible are held to account and people living there feel safe.

Beaten with a stick by a fellow resident 

Frail Hazel Sanders, 92, was left battered and bruised when a fellow care home resident assaulted her with his walking stick.

Harrowing photographs show bruises to her neck and hands after she was attacked by a man in his 80s at Karam Court Care Home in Smethwick, West Midlands. The swelling to her fingers was so severe her wedding ring had to be cut off.

Police investigated and Mrs Sanders was removed from the home by her daughter Mary, 73, who raised concerns that a resident with known mental health issues was able to attack her mother.

Hazel Sanders

Hazel Sanders

The neck injury she suffered

The neck injury she suffered

Assault: A young Hazel, left, and the neck injury she suffered, right

She is now calling on all care homes to be fitted with more cameras to put relatives at ease.

Karam Court cares for those with dementia and mental illnesses. Mrs Sanders did not have a degenerative memory condition but had been admitted with depression. Describing the incident, her daughter said: ‘He approached my mother as she was walking to her bedroom. As he hit her – bang, bang, bang – she was pleading, “if you want money, just take it”.

‘There was no one around. He could’ve killed her.’ Staff pulled the attacker away when they came across the assault in October 2014.

Mrs Sanders died in October last year aged 94 in an ‘incident-free’ nursing home, having suffered from colon cancer.

Speaking last night, her daughter said: ‘The police said they couldn’t do anything. It was all handled very badly. I didn’t even receive a written apology. I can’t even tell you what I think about the care home, she was treated appallingly.’

A spokesman for Karam Court said: ‘The incident happened in a corridor and staff were aware of it within seconds, coming to Mrs Sanders’s aid and restraining the other resident.

‘An ambulance was called immediately and, in line with our procedures, the police, Care Quality Commission, council safeguarding and both families were contacted.’

 

‘As the regulator, it is our job to assess the overall quality of care services in England. While the vast majority of care homes in the country have been rated as ‘good’, we do not hesitate to take action when we find this is not the case.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Abuse of any kind is completely unacceptable. Our changes to the law mean the Care Quality Commission can take more direct action against care providers whose services put people at risk, or fall below the high standards of care we expect.’

Today’s figures add to the evidence of a deepening crisis in the nation’s care homes.

Many homes are facing a recruitment crisis, with some so short-staffed that residents have resorted to caring for each other.

Meanwhile, a study this week said an extra 71,000 care places for the over-65s will be needed in England alone by 2025 as the population ages.

By 2035, a total of 189,000 extra places will be required.

Care home operators say they are under pressure because local authorities have cut their contributions for residents, while costs – particularly staff overheads – have risen.  

 

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