Maybe this is not the right time of year to be writing in such sad terms, but we all need to examine our conscience and ask whether we really do care about our aging population. This comes after reading the report a few days ago concerning the ten staff at a care home who appeared in court charged with a string of offences. A number of years ago Ralli launched www.nursinghomeabuse.org.uk and along with our managing partner Martin Coyne, I helped set this up.
In 1993, my Grandmother died in a nursing home. As a family we had thought long and hard about whether it was a kind thing to do, and eventually we decided that she would benefit from expert care and whilst it was a difficult decision, we found a place where we felt she would be cared for properly. I won't detail the exact circumstances here, suffice to say that during the short time she was in the care home, she had a terrible fall and for 3 days (despite my protestations to the staff that she should be in hospital) she was told to "straighten up and walk properly", even though it was clear she was in some considerable pain. When the penny finally dropped with the staff that my 93 year old grandmother, a very stoic lady who had lived through two World Wars, had been widowed twice, suffered the death of a child in a dreadful road accident, it was too late. She had suffered a broken hip and pneumonia had already taken hold of her. Sadly, she passed away two days later. I never forgot the attitude of the staff in that nursing home, so when Ralli decided to look at this area of work, I was glad to be involved. I felt that I could somehow make amends for what happened to my Grandmother, by helping other victims of neglect.
Ralli's nursing home team are often asked to give support to relatives of elderly people in homes and we have worked alongside Counsel and Care, a charity and national advice service working with older people and their families. Some of the calls that we take are utterly soul destroying and every time I hear a story of wilful neglect and abuse, I hope it will be the last. Yet last week, when I read that the Winterbourne View care home in Hambrook, South Gloucestershire was closed amidst apparent misconduct, I felt despair. The 10 staff who appeared in court were accused of dealing with vulnerable residents in ways that as a daughter, granddaughter and mother myself, I just cannot comprehend. Some of the residents appear to have been pinned down, slapped, doused in water and taunted.
So, I guess it is with a heavy heart that I end the year, blogging on a subject that is not full of festive cheer and will not uplift many people, but I make no apologies for that. I really do think that the elderly in the UK are almost forgotten about, their voices are no longer heard and as we sit down with our families next weekend and raise our glasses to each other, I'd like to think that next year things might be different.......
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