Daily Life In Britain’s Nursing Home Industry
By Lars G Petersson
Key Themes: nursing home, true stories, abuse
As a trained nurse Lars G Petersson has spent years in the profit-obsessed British nursing home industry - from Surrey in the south to Edinburgh in the north. In ABUSE.UK he takes his reader on a detailed tour behind the curtains of this hidden world where so many Britons end their lives in utter misery. By doing so, he paints a picture of not only appalling standards and abusive care but also of systematic staff exploitation, toothless regulators and a catastrophically flawed government control system.
ABUSE.UK is a book about a failed system that betrays those it was meant to shelter and care for. It is also a book about a business that closes its ranks against the pestilential dissident and supports the perpetrators' efforts to keep it all in the dark.
Read it and do something. After all, one of those behind the 'protective' walls of the nursing home could one day be your own mum or dad. It could even be yourself.
About the Author
Lars G Petersson is a 58 years old Swedish-born Londoner, activist and free-lance writer with special interest in peace, mental health, social justice and human rights. He is the author of a large number of articles (most of which were published in Danish newspapers and journals) and two other books, DESERTERS - a story about German war resisters from World War II - and MUSTERUNG State legitimated German Perversion (Chipmunca 2010) - a German language story about modern day military abuse.
Trained as a nurse - with speciality in mental health, social issues and addiction - he has persistently used his professional knowledge and insight to disclose matters otherwise hidden from public scrutiny. In a number of cases this has led to serious public debate and major improvements for vulnerable people.
‘Please, dear God, help me! Please let me out! I am claustrophobic; I can’t take this any longer; don’t lock me up like this. PLEASE, somebody!! PLEASE!!!’ Yes, every night around ten the same old story started all over again. As soon as Agnes Havisham in her wheelchair was taken close to her upstairs room a fierce struggle started. Screaming and fighting back she had to be put to bed by physical force and then the bedrail went up: she was trapped. …Sure, her screams were futile. There was nobody there to help. I could hear her anguish; I detested what I was doing, but I had no choice. Or had I?
Poor old Molly, who long time ago had grown up in London’s East End, daughter of Irish immigrants, was one of these unfortunate people suffering from this outright poverty; indeed she was one of those in greatest need. Every morning, as we entered her room, she was soaking wet and soiled. It was not possible to change her during the night as we had absolutely no supplies to do so. No question, Molly Murphy’s human rights in this country did not include a dry bed to sleep in. But the indignity didn’t stop there. Wet she rested and early in the morning, from around 5 am, not only she but all the others as well were pulled out of their beds, had a wipe on the face and quickly under the arms and that was it….
Many of these carers have to struggle to make ends. They have to save wherever there is a chance; they have to travel for hours on busses, as the tube and trains are too expensive, and some have hardly ever a day off. I met Habibah on my way to work one evening. Habibah had travelled through most of London on three different buses - after having been back home hardly longer than having had time for a shower and a short nap. After work she used to get home about eleven and now she was back. This is nothing unusual: many of these low-paid care workers do the same.
This care plan writing in nursing homes indeed is a strange phenomenon. There is an enormous amount of time spent writing them, but they are read by virtually nobody. The result of this is a system that only seems to be in place to make it appear as if things are under control - all of it to satisfy the supervising bodies, nothing but that.
Every month new supplies of medication were delivered from the local pharmacy to the individual residents of the home. This was to replace not only what had been used, but also what was still there on the shelves. It meant that every month large amounts of products which only the month before had been individually delivered to the residents were returned for destruction, not because they had passed the sell-by-date, but because new supplies had arrived and everything else therefore had to be destroyed.
Still at Fig Leafs I didn’t realise how effectively the reference system keeps health workers dependent on the good will of former employers long after work contracts have come to an end. Only later I fully came to understand the subservience and humiliation we quickly can end up in - all due to this system. In reality it effectively hinders us to vote with our feet and run away from disgusting homes and abusive managers.
Not only is Kravemore one of the biggest in the business, the company most likely provides something of the worst that is to be found in the country in the area of nursing care: cramped foul-smelling shared rooms, uncared for bedsores, and shortage of most everything.
If I had a pin I would prick you with it,’ the old gaunt Baroness G. Ruud suddenly remarked as the young carer helped her on with her slippers. Because of the baroness’s challenging behaviour (throwing crockery in the care home dining area, pinching and crushing staff members’ spectacles and much more) she was far from being the favourite client to be allocated for the morning care. No this woman was indeed not behaving according to aristocratic etiquette, and, according to her now elderly sons, she had always been a hard hitter, using a box on the ears as the best argument. If you were not a specks wearer you still better watched out: she could pinch you brutally in your backside or catch your finger and try to break it. Yes, you had better be aware. For personal injuries like that (according to the company’s regulations) there was no compensation - if it forced you off work, not even sick pay.
According to native staff the general had shouted ‘bloody nigger, get him out of here!’ and ‘nurse, I don’t want that one in here; he isn’t worth polishing my shoes.’ Now the modern day valet Nelson, who - full of zest and enthusiasm - only a month before had started his career in the nursing home business, probably had had enough. Totally dejected he was gone. For his psychological well-being the situation had become untenable - now he was finished. The racism, and worse, the employer’s condoning of it, had completely worn him down. Yes, the old general was in his right to abuse him; at the end of the day he paid £110 a day to live here, and that - as later became clear to me - included the right to behave as he wished.
Quite far into my care home career I still thought the Care Commission (CQC) was on my side. I thought they would welcome somebody standing up not only for the service users in private care but also for the hard-working underpaid people looking after these vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately I was wrong. No, a person like myself wasn’t wanted. I disturbed the peace and equilibrium.
It was interesting, rather chocking, to note that the investigators had chosen to investigate the entire complaint by interviewing the two senior people accused of wrong doing, two new senior administrative staff (none of whom employed at the time of my complaint…) and only one resident, the most vulnerable of them all. No others.
After months of having asked night staff for something to eat it was reported that 104 years old E’s faeces was green and slimy. At the time I had no idea as to why. An African nurse knew better: sign of starvation. Why wasn’t this woman fed though she constantly asked for food? As it is common knowledge at the home that people often are forgotten at meal time and not fed, it seems obvious that the manager has seriously failed in her duty to oversee that in this particularly vulnerable case one of the most basic needs was being met.
Every time I came on duty this resident was extremely thirsty (apart from being a type 2 diabetic she was on Lithium). She could drink around three pints (!) of water in one go with her evening tablets. I kept documenting this and asked the manager to stress to staff that GB must be given sufficient fluid during the day. There was never a response to these requests. I was, however, surprised to read in ‘Dr’s notes’ that ‘she (GB) could no longer swallow’. The same day as I read that and that she was ‘nil per mouth’ (i.e. MUST not be offered any drinks) she again drank with me three glasses of water all in one go…. No arrangements were ever made as to how this resident should be prevented from dying of thirst. She passed away shortly after….
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