Families bear brunt of failing home carePoor care leaves elderly hungry and at risk

17 September 2012

Elderly care

From breakfast to evening, 87-year-old Tom survived on pudding crumbs from the night before because his careworker failed to turn up.

Which? research has found that Tom's situation is far from unique, and family carers are left to pick up the pieces when vulnerable people receive poor care.

Hear Tom's daughter, Janet, interviewed about the failings in the care of her father - 'a highly intelligent man trapped physically in a body that didn't work' - and how she finally resorted to formal complaints.

Home care failings

Which? asked 40 family carers to keep a diary about their experiences and that of their cared-for relative in May and June 2012. 

  • One daughter's diary told of her mother having her face washed with a flannel with faeces on it and being dressed in yesterday's soiled clothes. 
  • Others spoke of relatives going all day without food or drink, untrained staff using lifting equipment, muddled vital medication and alarm pendants being forgotten.

But we also heard of fabulous care from agency careworkers who don't have enough time to do their work, yet go the extra mile to help.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: 'Our research shows vulnerable people left scared, hungry and sometimes at risk. When things go wrong, family carers bear the brunt - giving up their hopes and plans, and even sacrificing their own health.

'Family carers shouldn’t have to struggle alone. The government has promised a high standard of care and support. We’re waiting to see how this pledge will be translated into action.'

Family carers bear brunt

We also surveyed 284 carers* and found that for every four hours of help from careworkers, an hour was spent sorting things out. For example, completing tasks that should have been done.

Family carers are often poorly informed about available support, and Which? found that only a third (37%) were told about their right to a carer's assessment. Nearly half (47%) of those receiving council-funded care are worried about it being reduced or taken away.

Carers UK chief executive Helena Herklots says: 'These powerful personal stories highlight how the chronic under funding of social care services too often leaves families without the vital help they need, or struggling with poor quality or unreliable services. 

'Better quality and better funded services that families can have confidence in must be a priority for the government as it takes forward its reforms to care and support services. Families shouldn't have to keep picking up the pieces of a failing care system.'

More on this...

  • Read more about carers' rights and other long-term care options
  • Have your say on home care by joining Carers UK in the Which? Conversation
  • Read about our previous investigation and get help choosing

*July 2012