Wednesday 24 January 2018

Elderly nursing home residents are 'woken for breakfast at 5am'

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some elderly nursing home residents are being woken for breakfast as early as 5am because of understaffing, the patient safety watchdog has been told.

Others have been found by relatives lying in "filthy bedclothes", a catalogue of complaints to Hiqa reveals.

The allegations come as major concerns have emerged about a worrying rise in the number of complaints of suspected or confirmed abuse of residents from relatives and staff in public and private nursing homes. Hiqa received 424 complaints last year - up 19pc from 357 in 2014.

Age Action warned: "We welcome the robust and independent monitoring by Hiqa.

"It is essential that all of these cases are reported to the HSE's elder abuse case workers and properly investigated.

"We need a proactive approach to tackling elder abuse with more training for care staff and ensuring residents know how to report cases of suspected abuse."

Complaints ranged from poor nutrition to giving residents damp clothes, while other elderly people were found with unexplained bruises and undiagnosed broken bones, the Irish Independent has learned.

One resident had to wear a night-time catheter constantly, even though it meant being wheeled around with a bag of urine on show, Freedom of Information documents show.

Hiqa, which yesterday published its annual overview of nursing homes arising out of 411 inspections last year, almost half of which were unannounced, said overall good standards were found in healthcare, food and nutrition, and end-of-life care.

However, the three most common failures were in the nursing home building, the management of health and safety, and risk and fire safety.

Three centres closed during 2015. While one was a voluntary closure, formal enforcement procedures were used in respect of two centres.

Problems uncovered by inspectors included a lack of recruitment of staff and inadequate training to support residents. Many residents in outdated public nursing homes are still forced to endure nightingale wards with several beds, affecting privacy and dignity.

Risk

"It appears that for some providers there is a lack of understanding and appreciation of identification, assessment and control of risk."

There also needs to be more lessons learned from serious incidents or adverse effects suffered by residents.

In the area of fire safety, several homes were told to improve evacuation and fire drills.

Commenting on the report, Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private homes, said: "It highlights the very high level of regulation and inspection that is applicable to nursing home care in Ireland. There is a deep-rooted reporting culture within nursing homes.

"These fundamental principles help ensure residents, relatives and the wider public that the highest standards are being applied and independently observed within these home-from-home settings on an ongoing and continuous basis. Such standards are not applicable for other health services."

Referring to concerns raised about staffing levels, he criticised the ongoing hold-ups faced by more than 2,000 nurses who are waiting to be registered to allow them to work.

Many nursing homes have jobs waiting for nurses but they can take up to a year or more to be registered, he stressed.

Irish Independent

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