Elder abuse has again caught media attention. It seems that far from improving, the situation has got worse. This post is part of a series on elder abuse to keep you my reader informed about the signs to look out for.
It is about institutional abuse which can occur in any setting where one or more people receive a service on a daily or residential basis, for example in a person’s own home, a day centre, care home or hospital ward. Places where we trust staff to care for our vulnerable elderly ones with care and compassion.We all have the right to feel and be safe, regardless of our age or circumstances. We therefore need to be vigilant to ensure older people, their property and belongings are safe and they are treated with the dignity and respect they have a right to and deserve.
What is institutional abuse?
Institutional abuse arises from repeated instances of poor care of individuals or groups of individuals. It occurs when there is poor professional practice as a result of routines, systems and policies within a care setting, which override the needs of the people it is there to support. The service may not meet the necessary professional standards or there is a training need for a more personalised approach.
Examples of behaviour
These include: inflexible routines set around the needs of staff rather than people using the service, for example requiring everyone to eat together at specific times, limiting bathing to times that suit staff rather than the individual and no doors on toilets. These situations can arise through lax, uninformed or punitive management regimes. The behaviour is cultural and not specific to a particular member of staff.
Possible signs of institutional abuse are:
- Set times for refreshments with no opportunity to make alternative arrangements outside these hours
- Inappropriate approaches to continence issues such as toileting at prescribed times as opposed to when a person wishes to use the toilet
- No evidence of care plans that focus on an individual’s specific needs
- Staff not following care plans
- Lack of privacy for example leaving the door open when someone is
- taken to the toilet
- Dehumanising language that does not treat a person with dignity and respect
- Overuse and abuse of medication
- Locking people in rooms
- Failure to promote or support an individual’s religious or cultural needs
- No access to personal allowance or personal possessions
- Failure to knock on a person’s door before entering for example their bedroom or bathroom
- A couple being prevented from living together.
- Inflexible visiting times
Maisey is confined to a wheelchair and lives in a care home. She needs to be taken to the toilet as soon as she feels the need to go, to avoid having an accident and does not like wearing pads. While this is made clear in Maisey’s care plan, staff regularly ignore her requests to use the toilet until it is too late. When she complains about this to staff she is told it’s because she always asks when they are busy and, while they respect her choice not to war pads, if she did so accidents could be avoided.
If you are concerned
If you have a concern about someone else involving harm or abuse and think the danger is immediate phone the police now on 999!
If it is less urgent, you can either:
Phone the police on 101 or
Contact the older person’s Local Authority Social Services Department
If you are not sure, ask yourself whether you would report it if it were a child. If the answer is Yes, report it