independent

Thursday 18 December 2014

Nursing homes given a bad name

DEBORAH COLEMAN

Published 06/09/2011 | 09:19

IT MADE me sick to learn this week that HIQA inspectors were left with no option but to go out and buy food for elderly residents in a Co Kilkenny nursing home

That any such institution would not ensure that its residents were fed properly is a scandal, not to mention the questions that were asked about their personal belongings records. For years now, nursing homes have in general, been a cause of concern within this country. How many times have we read news reports of residents being allowed to wander from their nursing home unnoticed and at times with physical symptoms of substandard care?

Families who are no longer in a position to care for loved ones put their trust in care homes and pray that staff will do right by them. They should be safe in the knowledge that an elderly relative will get better care in a home staffed with medical professionals than they would at home with one or two family members muddling through as best they can. There are many nursing homes in the country that are run professionally and properly but like anything a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. It only takes one or two damning reports to destroy the trust families have in these institutions.

Many older people who enter such homes are sadly at various stages of dementia or Alzheimer's and are often unable to voice their fears. The residents and their families have to trust that the medical staff and management have the decency to run a tight ship and have the conscience to give adequate care and respect to the older person. In Irish society, all too often older people are cast on the scrap heap while still in their prime. They are patronised and shown little respect in many cases. At the end of long working life it is terrifying that any one of us could face a portion of our future in a home that treats its residents like a burden, good for nothing except making money. It's probable that in Kilkenny, for example at the time of registration, families were promised the sun, moon and stars and had faith in the home's credentials. Nobody would select a nursing home for a relative they felt to be sub-standard.

To think that there was a political push to have older people sell their own homes to pay for this ' luxury' is ludicrous. Imagine the torment of selling a home you worked hard to buy and perhaps raised a family in to line the pockets of a greedy service provider who treats its clients like animals. It's all well and good slating the poor standard of service but one must question how any home would be allowed to deteriorate to such an extent. I applaud the inspectors for taking the action they did but shouldn't we have a better regulated and transparent system that would prevent any nursing home from operating if there was the slightest concern over its standards. Some nursing homes are tireless in their work to offer a high standard of care to their residents, however until the day comes when it can be certain that these standards are met by every such home in the country the stigma that surrounds them will unfortunately never be extinguished.

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