Thursday, 5 June 2008

Care Home Hooligans

This week the Today programme has been running a series of undercover reports from a nursing home. The prevailing atmosphere, as might be expected, has been one of boredom, with residents permitted to quietly rot their brains in front of daytime TV. 70 year old charity campaigner Deddie Davies quickly slipped into the role of uncomplaining in-patient, it seems. "Last night a carer came in at 10pm and put the bell cord on my bed. Not one of the night staff introduced themselves or spoke to me," she mentioned at one point. And then a few seconds later she described the staff as "very jolly and very kind". Most of the residents seem to have been doped.

We expect the old folks to sit there quietly and take it, but a report from America suggests that it might not always be like that. Dr Karl Pillemer of Cornell University has been investigating what he terms "resident-to-resident mistreatment" and claims to have unearthed widespread evidence of verbal and physical disputes within care-homes. Says Pillemer, "Anyone who spends much time in a nursing home will observe arguments, threats and shouting matches among residents, as well as behaviors like pushing, shoving and hitting."

In all, he was able to identify and catalogue 35(!) different types of abusive behaviour. Screaming was the most common form of aggression, followed by such physical violence as pushing and punching or fighting.

"Given that nursing homes are environments where people live close together, and many residents have lowered inhibitions because of dementia, such incidents are not surprising," he said. "Because of the nature of nursing home life, it is impossible to eliminate these abusive behaviors entirely, but we need better scientific evidence about what works to prevent this problem."

Scientific evidence, notice. Nothing to do with treating elderly people with kindness and dignity, and respecting them as human beings, obviously. In fact, only a relatively small minority of care-home residents (2.5%) reported being at the receiving end of another resident's violence. - though that was obviously too much for Pillemer. I wonder what percentage had experienced chronic neglect?

2 comments:

valdemar said...

If I was stuck in a room all day with nothing to watch but Fern Britton and her ilk, screaming, pushing, hitting and possibly a bit of light genocide would seem attractive options. Indeed, going completely mad would be preferable to preserving one's sanity in such conditions. This negative attitude towards the care home 'industry' may explain why I drink, eat the wrong stuff and don't take much exercise. Death at sixty-odd seems the best option. Let others live on in urine-stained misery to keep the average life expectancy high.

Edwin said...

Power over others always leads to abuse if not monitored and checked. Look at that guy who suspected his mother was being abused - he set up a camera and god what horrors were being inflicted on his mum.

A friend described seeing an old man in a nursing home being sneered at by staff in full view of visitors. What happened when the visitors went, god knows. The old man had been a glider pilot on D Day.