Sickening: Landmark survey reveals how the elderly are neglected and abused in 91 of 92 care homes
Abuse of the elderly in care homes is widespread, the biggest survey of staff has found.
Old people suffered neglect, rough treatment or abusive behaviour in 91 of the 92 homes surveyed.
One in three residents are treated like inmates, never leaving the home except for hospital visits, the report said.
Around 5 per cent of care home workers questioned in England said they had seen verbal abuse of the elderly, and 1 per cent saw physical abuse.
Old people suffered neglect, rough treatment or abusive behaviour in 91 of the 92 homes surveyed
The researchers stressed that the findings – based on reports from 1,544 care home staff – were likely to be ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Further behaviour classed as ‘abusive’ under official definitions reported by care home staff included:
In the survey by University College London psychiatrists, published in the journal PLOS ONE, staff responded anonymously to questions about their colleagues’ behaviour.
Lead author Dr Claudia Cooper said: ‘We found low rates of verbal and physical abuse; the abusive behaviours were largely matters of neglect.
‘These behaviours were most common in care homes that also had high rates of staff burnout, which suggests it’s a consequence of staff under pressure and unable to provide the level of care they would like.’
The report said positive behaviour was more common than abuse. But it found that 15 per cent also said activities were not planned to reflect a resident’s interests.
Dr Cooper added: ‘One of the things that struck me most about our findings was that a third of people had not been taken out of their home for enjoyment. It is really important when you are living in a care home that you stay in touch with the outside world and have positive activities that fit in with your interests.’
In 2016, the Care Quality Commission watchdog said that across the UK there were around 40,000 reports of ‘safeguarding issues’, as reports of elderly abuse are known.
The Mail has lobbied for improved standards in its Dignity for the Elderly campaign.
Co-author Dr Penny Rapaport said: ‘Most care homes and staff strive to provide care designed around a person’s needs, which requires getting to know the resident. But often this goes by the wayside, with staff focusing on getting through each day.’
The researchers stressed that the findings – based on reports from 1,544 care home staff – were likely to be ‘the tip of the iceberg’
More than two thirds of care residents have dementia, which can make caring for them challenging, especially in the face of limited training and resources.
Professor Gill Livingston, from the university, said: ‘With the right training, staff may be able to deliver more effective care that doesn’t need to be more expensive or time-consuming.’
Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘By 2021, a million people in the UK will have dementia. The Government must act now with meaningful investment and reform or we risk the system collapsing.’
Caroline Abrahams, from Age UK, said: ‘It is deeply distressing to hear of older people badly let down by a system that has failed to treat them with dignity or protect them from abuse.’