Something smells ‘off’!

When inspecting a Care Home for the first time, the Inspector from the Care Quality Commission usually carries a voluminous file containing all the standard items which need to be checked, and, of course, ticked off on one of the many ‘test and query’ sheets contained within the file. Many and varied are the questions which must be asked and answered by the management and staff, mainly because the CQC people have to be seen to be thorough, objective and painstaking in their observations and queries. Many if not most Care Homes gain most if not all of their clients / patients via Council placements, which of course means that taxpayers cash is passing to the Care Management, and it is right and proper that independent and impartial scrutiny takes place on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, the whole CQC inspection and grading system is nothing short of an expensive farce, and gets worse by the week, as the small army of inspectors miss glaring mistakes and bad practice right in front of their noses, as they pass by, clipboard in hand, ticking off their interminable lists of points which are so dated, so pointless; that the lists and the expensive inspections need never happen. Time after time, scandals have been uncovered through whistle-blowing staff, or relatives of patients who receive whispered words from their relation, unable to cope with the unthinking and uncaring actions of those who are supposed to be ‘looking after them. Ticked-boxes may state that the patients’ ‘Human rights’ are upheld, but do not show random sarcasm delivered as a patient is cleaned and changed; or goading of a senile patient who has soiled himself because he had to wait until a staff member is finished his coffee break before doing his job!

The sad truth about the Care Home Industry is that it really is money for old rope; with the cast-offs, the demented, the senile, the detritus of our ‘vibrant society’ are hurriedly placed in places which sometimes are literally cash-generators for hedge-fund entrepreneurs. For those families in need of respite, or looking for a refuge for an ailing, elderly relative who cannot look after themselves, but the ability to look after their elderly relative is simply beyond their capacity; the search must be thorough and resolute, with the CQC reports to be maybe checked out, but not trusted because so much is hidden behind closed doors.

Not all Care Facilities are bad, many are excellent, but you will find that the excellent ones are usually the most expensive, because good staff are expensive, and you definitely do not get the greatest staff when you pay ‘minimum wage’ The best homes have a high staff-to-patient ratio, because back-ups are important. The ideal establishment would have a sealed CCTV system in every room, with custom monitored screens available only to relatives, friends or duly-appointed senior staff, with an unbreakable hard drive record of every minute that a family’s relative is in the care of the care home. It may sound a tad-over-the-top, but a known recording would stop the casual cruelty which can go uncovered for sometimes months.

I was forced to place my beloved wife into a Council-approved care home, as I had medical problems which necessitated my being available at virtually no notice for tests, etc. I was able to visit my wife virtually every day, and believe me; the staff knew that at least one husband was making damn sure that the love of his life was treated with respect and dignity all the time.

One final item for those amongst us who will, in the near or far future, look for the services of a Care Home for a loved one; there is one test which will, never be found written down; but is probably the most basic check of all. As you walk around, viewing the facilities and studying the rooms, ensure that you take a good, steady sniff as you walk the corridors: because what you are searching and sniffing for is the smell of stale urine. It is unmistakeable; and proof that the patients are left alone too long without caring supervision, that the very carpets and clothing speak volumes with the loud and urgent message: avoid this place like the plague, for they do not CARE!