The number of care home residents suffering neglect or injury is rising as the embattled sector struggles to recover after the pandemic, a Sunday People investigation found.
Some 73 disturbing incidents have been reported to the watchdog Care Campaign for the Vulnerable since February 24 – the date Covid restrictions ended in England.
Staff shortages and a stressed, underpaid workforce are feared to have driven the rise and the suspected incidents range from unexplained bruising to serious injuries.
Despite lockdowns ending, many care home visits remained restricted, causing a delay in relatives realizing the extent of residents’ decline, CCFTV says.
In one shocking incident, 92-year-old Olivia Martin died after suffering terrible injuries in a suspected fall at her care home that was not witnessed by staff.
Her son Raymond, 71, said: “We are dealing with the grief while trying to get answers about how this could have happened.
“The sector has been bulldozed. I don’t doubt how difficult it is for staff to look after people now, but here there’s a serious duty of care and nobody should have to die because of the problems the industry is dealing with.”
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His family are among 27 receiving direct support for unwitnessed injuries from CCFTV since lockdown ended two months ago – an 80% increase from those it was helping with that issue before that date. And the group fears many more relatives could be grappling with similar heartbreaking cases of neglect.
Director Jayne Connery said: “As lockdown eased, many families were seeing older parents for the first time since the pandemic. We were overwhelmed with calls as families noted the serious decline in loved ones. They’d had no communication explaining that deterioration.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper, the party’s spokesperson for Health & Social Care, described reports of residents’ suffering as a national scandal.
She said: “Care workers are burnt out, stressed out and overworked. Many are looking for the door as the Government ignores the shortage of care workers, terrible conditions and poor pay.”
The sector was short of 112,000 staff before the pandemic took hold. And the crisis deepened as thousands of exhausted staff quit when Covid swept through care homes, with at least 43,000 residents’ deaths linked to the virus.
Thousands more had to quit last November after refusing the Covid vaccine but the ruling on compulsory jabs has now been scrapped.
The vacancy rate across adult social care in England was 10% last month, compared with 5.9% last May, data from Skill for Care shows.
Sickness absence is also on the rise, with the average number of days lost to illness per worker in the previous year rising to 9.7 last month – from 8.2 in October.
The family of great-great gran Olivia say they got a call on November 15 to say staff at The Grange Care Home in Folkestone, Kent, had discovered her with a bump on her eye and a bleeding nose.
Olivia was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and treated for a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and bruising.
Granddaughter Carmella, 46, said: “Nan was in and out of consciousness after her head injury, she never spoke again.”
Olivia was discharged to another home for end-of-life care, where she died on December 4.
Carmella said: “We’re all heartbroken but my dad and his twin sister Christine are beyond upset, they are really distressed.”
An email sent to the family by The Grange’s manager says an internal probe found Olivia was helped off the floor and into her chair without a hoist. This breached manual handling procedures and both staff got a final written warning.
The family have complained to the official watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, and reported the incident to Kent Police.
The force said: “Following inquiries, including speaking to witnesses, no criminal offenses were identified and a report was prepared for the coroner.”
An inquiry is due in July and the family intends to pursue civil action against the home.
Carmella said: “I’m not excusing abuse but the people who do these jobs are not looked after and that has a knock-on effect. The Government needs to start looking after the people who are looking after our loved ones.”
The Grange’s manager, Jenny Tyas, said the home operates a safe and caring environment, and that staffing levels have not been affected by the pandemic and the home has remained Covid-free.
She added: “Mrs Martin was a much loved resident and we were saddened by her death. We hope that the inquest process will assist her family de ella to understand the circumstances of Mrs Martin’s death de ella and allay their concerns de ella. ”
Almost 99,500 serious injury notifications have been raised with the Care Quality Commission since March 2020.
The watchdog could not comment on the cases revealed by the Sunday People.
But Kate Terroni, the chief inspector of adult social care, said most care homes are good or outstanding and urged anyone with concerns to get in touch.
Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, which has applied to take part in the Government’s Covid inquiry next year, has made fresh calls for CCTV in care homes, which Olivia’s family supports.
Karin Smyth, Labour’s Shadow Social Care Minister, said: “People want to be safe and well looked after in old age. These horrifying injuries show that too many elderly people do not enjoy that security today.
“Labor will improve training, pay and conditions to deliver the number of staff needed.”
The Government is to give £500million from the new Health and Social Care Levy to help train, retain and attract social care workers.
‘My dad’s state was horrific’
This shocking image of a badly injured elderly man, taken days before he died after a fall at his care home, was shared by his distraught daughter.
Retired engineer Chi So Ngo, 84, died at St Thomas Hospital in January of injuries so severe that medics referred his case to the coroner.
His daughter Lucy Ng, 29, believes the fallout from the pandemic, including staff shortages and lack of carer training at Collingwood Court Care Home, played a part in his death.
She raised concerns about his care in August last year, claiming he suffered multiple falls at the home in Clapham, south London, after moving there in June.
But she claims her concerns went unanswered and he was outside unsupervised on January 26 when he fell, fracturing his skull, eye socket and nose, and dislocating his jaw.
Lucy, who is being supported by the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: “I feel robbed of my dad. Seeing him with bruises like that was horrific. We’ve been left with so many questions.”
The Met Police are probing.
Charlie Kenny, regional director for Collingwood Court, said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Chi So Ngo’s family. We’ve commissioned an independent investigation into his injuries from him. ”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.