Today I heard on the news that some people visiting elderly relatives who live in care homes have been banned from further visits because they have complained about the care their relative has received.  The article went on to say that one elderly person had even been evicted from their care home because of their relatives’ complaints.

It’s a sad fact of life that not all care homes provide excellent care.  I’m glad to say that my mother receives very good care in her sheltered flat.  Apart from myself, carers go in four times a day, plus a phone call away are district nurses, a chiropodist, a physiotherapist, and Dial-a-Ride transport. A hairdresser sets Mum’s hair in her own flat every Thursday morning, and it takes me only five minutes to push her to the doctor’s surgery in her wheelchair.  Staff organise daytime activities for the residents, and there is a guest suite available and a laundry and library on site.

However, from 1987 – 1991 I saw the other side of the coin when I worked at weekends in the kitchens of a residential home for the elderly in London, which eventually closed down but shall remain anonymous.  Residents were often left sitting on commodes for over an hour, with the back of their nightdresses over the back of their commodes so that they could not get up.  Day staff would put them into bed for the night at 5.30pm, so the night staff would not complain that they had too much to do. When residents’ clothes were sent to the laundry for washing, they often received somebody else’s clothes back. Most of the residents had dementia, and for them I think it was just as well they did.  Some of the staff I worked with were lovely, but others were not so caring.

It was my duty to prepare tea for the residents, but I was instructed on exactly how much food I could put on their plates.  Portions were meagre, and sometimes I would go home and feel like crying.  When I took the residents their sandwiches I used to sit with them awhile and sing the old songs my mother taught me as a child, to try and cheer them up.  They remembered every word of the songs from their youth, and to see them smiling was a real boost.  We needed money so badly at the time, that I stuck the job out for 4 years until we moved to East Anglia.

The matron was very efficient, but of course she could not be on duty 24 hours a day.  The front door was kept locked so that wandering residents could not escape, and relatives had to make an appointment outside of visiting hours if they wanted to see a resident.  Nowadays the front door of my mother’s complex is secure from the outside, but compos mentis residents in the know would be able to open the door from the inside if they wanted to, as I think laws have changed and it is not possible to lock everybody in.

There are good homes and there are bad homes.  My mother is fortunate.  Others however are not.