Head of elderly support group Alone urges homecare regulation
Complaints of abuse and neglect received by seven local area health offices between 2011 and 2012
Home help complaints from seven locations around the country have again highlighted concerns that vulnerable older people are at risk of abuse and mistreatment within their own homes
The latest tranche of home help complaints released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act relate to home help complaints received in seven HSE local health offices between 2011 and 2012.
A further three local health offices, namely Roscommon, Tipperary South and Wexford, did not record any complaints about home-help services in the period covered.
The release of this latest batch of complaints follows the publication last month by The Irish Times of 80 complaints received in 11 health offices, which revealed that an elderly woman had been left in bed all weekend because staff did not show up.
A further complaint centred on a threat by a home help that she would only shower a disabled stroke victim twice a week because she was “sick to death” with problems caused by the client while another involved a home help who left a bucket of urine in an older man’s room, and used soiled clothes to wash him .
Another included an allegation that a home help had taken possession of a client’s pension and credit union book, resulting in a HSE and Garda investigation.
Following the revelations published last month, Minister of State with responsibility for older people Kathleen Lynch said home help services would be the next sector to be regulated and subject to inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority, the health safety watchdog.
There are currently no statutory regulations in place for homecare providers, however private homecare providers contracted to the HSE are required to meet standards as part of their service level agreement, including monitoring arrangements.
The programme for government contains a commitment to develop and implement a statutory regulation system for homecare services, which would include inspections by 2016.
However, Seán Moynihan chief executive of Alone, an organisation supporting older people in need, said the Government should introduce regulation of the sector “the quicker the better”.
“You can’t open up a corner shop and make a sandwich without regulation and spot checks . . . we are only getting to that with older people in the community,” he said.
“Our concern is that [the Government] won’t actually get to it and we feel it should be done now.”
He said that in “any relationship where people are one-on-one with people who are vulnerable . . . there is a danger of manipulation”.
“The bottom line is that older people want to be treated like any other group but for a percentage of people who are dependent on the community care, the voluntary sector or family there needs to be vigilance to ensure that vulnerable older people are not left one-to-one and at risk”.
Mr Moynihan warned that elder abuse remains “very, very underreported” and was often carried out by individuals who are known to the victim, making it more difficult to report.
During these times of austerity, it may be the case that vulnerable people feel they must endure more hardship and as a result not report abuse, he said.
Older people in need of support can contact Alone on 01-6791032.