Care for the elderly let down by "systematic failures"

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An inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found that Britain's elderly are not safe from abuse or neglect from those caring for them in their homes.

Over 1,000 older people were surveyed along with their friends and families. Although around half said they were satisfied with their home care, many reported widespread systematic failures by carers tasked with helping them eat, wash and dress.

Care for the elderly – let downThe EHRC said some treatment breached human rights and that there were many cases of physical and financial abuse.

The dignity of older people engaged in intimate tasks was found to be ignored, while the survey also uncovered instances where carers refused to heat and serve food due to unfounded health and safety concerns.

"The cumulative impact on older people can be profoundly depressing and stressful: tears, frustration, expressions of a desire to die and feelings of being stripped of self-worth and dignity - much of which was avoidable," said the report.

Baroness Sally Greengross, the Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, said council funding cuts were reducing carers' hours and tasks were being neglected.

"The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us," she said.

A woman from Sheffield told the investigation that, after her father's medication was carelessly dropped, the pills were hastily replaced by the carer and the 95-year-old's medication was administered at the wrong time.

His family is convinced this incident contributed to the stoke he suffered shortly afterwards and, 10 days later, his death.

Care services minister Paul Burstow welcomed the report, saying: "This Government won't tolerate poor care. I am determined to root out ageism and bad practice to drive up quality and dignity in care."

Neil Fearn of Simpson Millar LLP noted that not all situations related to home care for the elderly are covered by the Human Rights Act. "An important element of the report is its recommendation that older people be entitled to more legal protection," he said. "Cutting funding for care for the elderly is a false economy which could seriously backfire later."

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