An article in The Guardian newspaper by David Brindle, Public Services Editor, is rather worrying.  It says that out of 4000 nursing homes inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), 32% have been rated inadequate or need improving, and 37% have been told that they must improve safety.   Only 1 in 50 homes were given a top rating.  Inspectors who made unannounced visits to some care homes found that medicines were not being administered in a safe manner.  Also alarm calls were not being answered,  and residents were not getting help to eat or use the toilet. Some residents were found to have been woken up by night-shift care workers, washed and then put back to bed, apparently to make life easier for staff.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC, said that the CQC would shut down any home which failed to improve, but with cuts to funding and discontent over nurses’ pay and workloads, she admitted that many homes are struggling to retain and recruit well-qualified nursing staff.

I have had experience of working in a care home (in the kitchens) at weekends and also visiting my mother on a daily basis in her own care home.  When I worked in a London residential home back in the early 1990’s, although I was based in the kitchens I saw enough to know what was going on. There was a fully qualified matron on site and senior nursing staff to give out medications and instruct the care assistants.  However, there did not seem to be enough staff, and residents with dementia were often left sitting on commodes for long periods of time.  The backs of their nightdresses would be pulled down over the backs of the commodes so that they could not stand up, and a blanket would be put over their legs as they sat there.

I used to take tea and sandwiches to residents in their rooms.  About 5.30pm as I collected the empty plates and cups, the daytime care assistants would be washing the residents and putting them into bed for the night, as the night staff complained if they had to do this.

By the time my mother was in her ‘very sheltered’ home last year, there were still not enough staff.  Residents’ alarm calls went unanswered quite a lot of the time, as I was told “she’s always ringing the bell.”  Mum fared rather better, as she did not have dementia and could tell me if her call bell went unanswered at night.  However, towards the end of her life I found that unless I was there with her at mealtimes, there were not enough staff around to help her to eat.  On the whole I was happy with the care she received, but then again I was doing a lot of it myself.  I wonder how she would have got on if I had not been around?

All this makes we wonder what will be available for me when I am of an age to be needy? Will there be any care homes left?  The last thing I would want to be is a burden on either of my sons, and so I’ve got to keep myself healthy for as long as possible, as quite frankly, I’d rather manage by myself than have to live in any ‘care’ home in need of improving, although the East of England where I live has managed to get the best overall results from the inspections, so perhaps all is not lost!