Long-term Care and your Rights

Finding the right kind of care home and making sure that you are appropriately cared for?

Finding the right kind of care home can be a pressing problem for the elderly people and their families. Some are able to stay in their homes with the help of the care provided by family members, local health services or voluntary organisations. Others reach a point where physical illness or mental incapacity means they need the kind of long-term care provided by a home for the elderly.

Care homes can be run by the local social service department, non-profit organisations or commercial companies. Social services may contribute towards the costs (although the person receiving the care always has to pay something). To apply for financial assistance, contact your local council’s social services department. Social workers will visit you to assess your care and financial needs.

Types of Care Homes

There are several types of homes for the elderly offering varying levels of care, from sheltered housing ( which has help on hand in case of an emergency) to fully staffed nursing homes.

  • Sheltered (or retirement) Housing

You buy or rent a property in a sheltered housing complex which has a resident warden and an alarm system. All maintenance is provided and various care services are available. Usually, residence is restricted to people above a certain age, say 55.  

These properties can range from small flats to luxurious homes with amenities such as swimming pools or golf courses within the complex. Some are private and others are run by local councils or housing associations. You pay a service charge which varies according to the type of facilities provided.

  • ‘Close Care’ or ‘Extra Care’ Schemes

You buy or rent a property on the same site as a nursing or care home, often with a guarantee that your property will be bought back if you have to move into the residential home. You pay for services such as cleaning and various forms of assistance provided by the home. 

  • Residential Care Homes

These provide meals and help with personal care such as dressing, as well as supervision of medication. There is somebody on duty at night, but no provision for nursing care.  All care homes are registered and inspected by the local social services department.  

  • Nursing Homes

There provide twenty-four hour nursing care, as well as residential facilities, and so are more expensive than the other types. All nursing homes are registered and inspected by the local health authority. 

Complaining about a Care Home

If you think a relative or friend is not getting adequate care, discuss the situation with the manager or proprietor of the home. Each home must have a formal complaints procedure. Homes must also be registered with the local authority, which conducts periodic inspections. In addition, there are two regulatory bodies for residential and nursing homes. They are the National Care Standards Commission in England and the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales. These bodies ensure that the standards are met.

First step is to ask for a copy of the home’s complaints procedure, which should be available to residents and to their relatives and friends. Second, make a formal complaint to the owner or to the head office if the home is part of a group.  

If you do not get a satisfactory response, raise the issue with the local authority and the appropriate regulatory body. They can investigate the care being given to a particular resident and look more widely at standards in the home. They can order changes and improvements and ultimately replace managers or close homes if standards do not improve.  

Please note that if you make a complaint about a care home to the local authority or one of the regulatory bodies, you do not have to inform the care home staff that you have done so. But, if the authority or regulatory body needs to investigate particular events or circumstances that concern one of the residents, you could find it difficult to remain anonymous. So it is better to begin by taking your complaint to the home’s official complaints procedure.

Example 

Mistreatment by a Carer

Your elderly grandmother is in a nursing home and you think one of the carers is mistreating her. You discussed the issue with the home’s manager but he refuses to do anything unless you come up with better evidence. No, he cannot do that. The home should take your concern seriously, make enquires to establish the circumstances, and take action as required.  

At the same time, you should also make sure that what you think is mistreatment really is not. For example, physical signs of what seems to be abuse may be the result of a fall or other accident. Mental distress may be a symptom of dementia. Consider having your grandmother examined by her GP to check for signs of abuse. 

If your grandmother has her care paid for by the Department of Work and Pensions, tell her social worker or care manager of your concerns, and ask them to investigate. If you are convinced that there is immanent danger or that a serious incident has occurred, call the police.