My Granddad and Others Failed by Care Homes

Lisa Churchyard draws on a painful personal experience to highlight the neglect and carelessness that characterise far too many of our homes for the elderly.

Two years ago my grandfather, Kenneth Mather, found himself scared, confused, freezing cold and unaware of his surroundings. A dementia sufferer, Kenneth was failed by his own nursing home, Forest Court in Calmore, Southampton.

Around 8.30pm on 19th December 2014, Kenneth walked unattended out of the home and into the visitors’ car park. It was not until 9pm, when the nurses did their nightly rounds, that anyone noticed he was missing.

Jaqueline Gelder, the manager of Forest Court Nursing Home, said, ‘We take extreme precautions to ensure all of our patients are safe and in good hands. It is now apparent Kenneth should have been placed in a higher security nursing home due to the severity of his dementia, as our residents are not required to be monitored 24/7.’

‘Having assessed the situation, we had him transferred the following day. This was an unfortunate and rare incident which I am pleased to say has not happened since.’

From a national perspective, Kenneth’s case is not so rare. Last November, a 91-year-old dementia patient died in a care home in North Yorkshire from hypothermia, despite her family complaining about the low temperature of her room.

Just four days before Kenneth strolled out of Forest Court, Sandy Simpson, a 72-year-old dementia patient was able to leave Pitcarn Lodge in Aberdeen and was not noticed missing until his wife spotted him walking in the road past a Rotary club window.

In October 2015, 87-year-old Nella Carter tried to follow her daughters out of the Oaklands Residential Care Home in West Wellow. Mrs Carter fell down a flight of concrete stairs and died.

If there’s one common regret among these incidents it’s that all the horror caused could have been avoided had management exercised due care.

In the UK approximately 595,000 people with dementia or severe memory problems are living in residential care, but many are receiving a low standard of treatment. A Care and Quality Commission report in 2014 found that care and nursing homes across Britain were failing dementia sufferers in an ‘appalling’ fashion. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BOIJ), there were 13,816 unexpected deaths in care homes in 2014. Approximately 63% of those were due to negligence.

It’s time that we all took neglect of dementia victims in residential and nursing homes far more seriously. I don’t want someone else’s family to endure the suffering mine went through.

Image by Sarah Cheverton.