89% of families polled in America came out in support of closed circuit TV being used in nursing homes
There is a small but potentially dangerous number of staff who abuse the elderly and frail people in their care. Yet they are often allowed to stay employed for years, never facing any discipline. This is not a modern problem. But as aged and disability services rapidly grow due to changing demographics, this problem is getting larger.
It could be swiftly dealt with using modern technology and an accountable health system. But instead it's covered up and allowed to continue.
This is a painful but important issue to discuss. In in my years running this blog I have received several tragic reports from relatives of people left in aged care despite complaints by family members of abuse from staff.
In one case reported to me by relatives, an elderly woman was assaulted by a male staff member and ending up being covered in bruises. In another case, an elderly male resident died of an easily preventable condition, less than a month after being admitted to a nursing home in a stable condition.
The impact of these acts of violence has left the families devastated. I have seen these families fight for justice over years, filing complaints, contacting lawyers, writing letters to ministers and and fail. Problems are simply covered up. Bad staff are simply 'moved on' to another facility.
In a manner not unlike sexual abuse among the Catholic Clergy, the aged and disability industry has a problem they need to face up to and deal with.
The root causes of these incidents are quite specific. They include -
Hiring the wrong staff
Government departments are currently forcing long term unemployed people, some of whom have serious antisocial behaviour into 'free' aged care training courses, as a prerequisite for continuing to receive unemployment benefits. These training courses are also receiving very substantial amounts of money to 'pass' these people at the end of their training course. And finally, aged and disability services are then offered large amounts of money to give these people a job.
The purpose of this policy related to manipulation of the unemployment figures. It has no relevance or use to the healthcare industry at all.
This Government policy goes on in secret. Aged and disability residents and their families are never told about these policies, or their potential impact on their lives. They have no say in how people working in aged and disability services are recruited at all.
Governments do not release information about which facilities employ staff accused of abusing residents, or the names of nurses and carers who have been implicated.
At the same time, the cost of doing these courses for working people who might bring excellent skills to the industry is often too expensive. At present doing the Enrolled Nursing course in Australia is around $20,000. Women with experience raising children or coming from other professions like teaching often simply can't afford to take 18 months off work and pay these huge fees.
Privatising a vulnerable industry
The biggest cost across the healthcare industry is staff wages.
Yet the quality of nursing and care staff is not clearly visible.
However families can easily 'see' expensive furnishing, thick carpet and nice curtains.
This makes it extremely easy for private companies to spend money on fittings, then slash their costs by hiring low quality staff on a casual basis.
Once again, nurse to staff ratios are not made public, neither are their qualifications.
Families and residents simply can't make informed choices about the most important choice in their lives, where to live when you are disabled and where to die when you are old.
Nurses unions are among the most powerful in the Western World. They control all areas of employment such as training, recruitment, employment contracts, superannuation and legal representation.
Aged care facilities are fragmented, private and not financially rewarding to operate. In Australia some 40% of aged care facilities are currently on the verge of bankruptcy.
Most aged and disability services simply don't have the money and resources to fight court cases about allegations of abuse by nurses and carers. It's often easier just to let things 'go' rather than sack a bad staff member.
Some relatives are taking matters into their own hands
Concerned relatives are already approaching private investigation agencies to record abuse then taking this information to lawyers, aged care management and even the media.
Nurse Blog International reports that after the use of hidden cameras to record aged care abuse became a regular theme in the US media, some states now allow aged care facilities to legally and openly install them.
I believe the future is staying at home longer, using smart technology and private carers, hired by companies who actually check resumes.
The rights of the old and frail must come first
Leaving aged and disability care to be 'managed' by opaque government departments, duplicitous politicians and short term private operators is not a good solution.
As the founder of one rating service stated –
'Aged Care Reviews believe there is no better way to encourage aged care operators to promote quality care and services than through the cleansing effect of light and transparency achieved through public reviews.'
© Wikihospitals August 2015
Abuse in nursing homes soars – News.com 2008
Norma’s Project – a research study into the sexual abuse of older women in Australia – La Trobe University
The sexual abuse of elderly people in nursing homes and hospitals – Nursing Blog International
Sexual assault against the elderly, frequent but invisible – Sydney Morning Herald 2014
Aged care accreditation in the spotlight
– ABC Lateline 2013
State dealing with 300 cases of disabled abuse by carers
– The Age 2014
2014 © Wikihospitals 2014