Loneliness at Christmas

Bravo Barchester for caring so much for elderly people living alone in the community! Earlier this year they launched 'Don't Dine Alone'. A quick google search will present lots of media coverage of Barchester all over the UK. Here are a just a few festive examples:

Barchester - 'Care homes open their doors to lonely older people this Christmas' https://www.barchester.com/media/press-releases/care-homes-open-their-doors-lonely-older-people-christmas

Care Select - 'Care homes across UK throw open doors to lonely older people this Christmas.' http://www.careselect.co.uk/care-homes-across-uk-throw-open-doors-to-lonely-older-people-this-christmas/ Now ..... stop. Think outside the box. What does this really mean? For those of you who have endured the nightmare of having a loved one in a failing care home, I know that initiatives such as this will not fool you.

Within weeks of my Mother-in-law moving into Mount Tryon care home in 2014, she was admitted with dehydration. I began reporting this Good Rated care home which soon slipped into Requires Improvement. It did not improve and ended up in Special Measures. Yet ... the same issues continued. CQC and the Local Authorities did not take action. One of the areas of failure clearly written in inspection reports were issues around food and fluids. She was admitted again in 2016, dehydrated yet again and almost died. March 2017 she passed away, her only escape from neglect was death. This is my husband's first Christmas without his Mum, our children's without their Gran. This is heartbreaking, but at the same time a relief for her .... for us. For the first time in 8 years we do not have to visit a care home on Christmas Day. Seeing the false happy smiles, the water jugs full that are normally empty or not even there, the absence of the usual stench of urine, residents being given help to eat, when they are normally left unable to eat their food and it going cold, then taken away. We will not be returning home after our visit to await phone calls telling us of an unwitnessed fall or another UTI.

Whilst Barchester display these banners outside their care homes, residents inside are not receiving adequate nutrition or fluids. A typical day's menu for my Mum-in-law who had dementia. For around 12 months I repeatedly raised the issue of nothing on the trolley for mid-am, mid-pm and supper snacks for people on mashed or pureed diet. Nothing changed. I often had to go to the kitchen to get a yogurt as that was all there was. Frequently these charts did not identify what type of diet she was on, if if she had a choking risk and often not even dated. Not acceptable for any care home who rely on agency staff, who rely on these charts. We have letters from the dietician to say the home were not meeting her food and fluid requirements, yet CQC and Local Authority did nothing.

It is well known Barchester do not like to spend money on staffing to ensure peoples' needs are met. I wonder how staff feel having this extra work for the day, when they already struggle to cope. This is not a hotel, it is a home for elderly people, who are paying to receive a service. It is just like Care Home Open Day, a big publicity stunt to attract future business. For this day, Barchester will pull out the stops for their 'guests', who may well in the future need 24 hour care. They will reflect back on their special day in a Barchester care home with fondness, and that is where they will choose if they need a care home. Barchester are not the only providers to be running such initiatives. It is the latest band wagon of tackling loneliness and isolation. There may be some care homes offering this with good intentions, but sadly there are many who are not. CQC have never enforced closure of any failing care home owned by Anchor, Barchester, Bupa, Care UK, Four Seasons, HC-One, allowing them to fail for years, placing lives at risk. They treat other providers very differently. My personal view is the Government agenda is to wipe out smaller, independent care homes, leaving only the corporate providers with their factory style care villages, offering no better care than what we have now, blinding the public with their in-house 'extras', and if people can't afford it, they will be left to manage in the community, and then realise the resources are not there to support them.

My advice to the smaller independent providers who are trying to make a difference, start using your voice like we do and challenge what is bad in your industry. One day you will look back on this time and realise Your Voice Matters were not your enemy, we were and are on your side.

It is not Your Voice Matters who is ruining it for the genuine providers, it is organisations such as Barchester. They are the ones who give the sector a bad name. We want to see an end to the corporate elderly care home providers, and we will continue to speak the truth in the hope others will awaken. The bad apples need to go!

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