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What is care home abuse? 

Care home abuse is failing to provide safe, livable conditions for vulnerable residents. In some cases, care home abuse goes beyond inadequate care; instead of being protected, patients are subject to physical and psychological abuse from care home staff. This devastating maltreatment of human beings is becoming more prevalent in the UK; In 2014 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) received 37,060 reported allegations of care home abuse compared with 67,590 in 2018. Over these 4 years, the CQC saw care home complaints increase by 82%. BBC One’s Panorama programme has demonstrated the sickening abuse that has taken place in care homes such as Winterbourne View private hospital near Bristol and Whorlton Hall in County Durham. Undercover footage depicts staff at the respective facilities physically abusing vulnerable adults with learning disabilities deliberately provoking them. 

There are five common types of care home abuse: physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. It is not always easy to recognize when care home abuse is taking place. However, this guide aims to help you to identify both physical and behavioural signs.

1. Signs of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is often the type of care home abuse that is most easy to identify. Signs that a patient is being subject to physical abuse can include the development of bruises, sores or cuts, especially around the wrist, ankle and arm area. This may demonstrate that the patient has been forcefully restrained or grabbed by a member of staff.  Additionally, it is important to look out for less obvious, non-visible signs of physical abuse. Has the patient’s behaviour changed? Have they become quieter, less sociable and jumpy? This could indicate that they are afraid but they might not feel comfortable exposing what has happened to them. If they are unwilling to talk to you, contact professionals such as a GP or your local council’s adult safeguarding team about your concerns

2. Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be subtle and difficult to spot but for patients, it can overcome them both physically and psychologically. Signs to look out for include changes in behaviour: avoiding social gatherings, becoming quieter, and being startled easy are all signs of emotional abuse. Additionally, pay close attention to the habits of your loved ones; are they demonstrating repetitive acts such as rocking back and forth or sucking on their thumb? This behaviour suggests emotional abuse is taking place. If you notice a consistent pattern in the patient’s behaviour that is unusual, get in touch with a professional who can advise you on how to proceed. 

3. Signs of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse involves the manipulation of vulnerable patients. Care home staff may use tactics such as blackmail to gain financial information from residents, or they may steal their information without them knowing. Signs of financial abuse to look out for include unexplained expenditures. This can be hard to detect especially if your loved one is very old and suffers from dementia or Alzheimers. Another sign of financial abuse is the resident reporting that their chequebook, credit cards or personal documents are missing. It is not always easy to uncover if your loved one is being taken advantage of, but keep a record of their expenditures and if you are concerned, speak to someone you can trust.

4. Signs of Sexual Abuse

It is painful to imagine a loved one experiencing this type of abuse at a care home. However, it is common and being aware of the signs could prevent vulnerable adults from being subject to this horrendous form of abuse. Like emotional abuse, it is not easy to identify when sexual abuse is taking place. Physical signs of sexual abuse can include the patient displaying unexplained Bruises on or around breasts and genitals. They may have contracted venereal diseases and infections or have torn or stained underwear. Sexual abuse doesn’t always have to be physical; exposing patients to pornography or sexual harassment is also sexual abuse and is unacceptable. If you suspect sexual abuse is taking place in your loved one’s care home, report it as soon as possible to local authorities. 

5. Signs of Neglect 

Neglect is a devastating form of care home abuse. At care homes, patients deserve to have their dignity maintained with basic hygiene needs being met. Unfortunately, neglect is an all too common occurrence in care homes across the UK, often due to understaffing. The physical signs of neglect can include the patient displaying bedsores or pressure ulcers. This can mean that the patient isn’t being cleaned properly and/or their bed and covers are moist or damp. Another sign of neglect is the patient not receiving the correct medication. This can be life-threatening for patients who rely on medication to keep them alive. Often neglect goes undetected until it is too late; if you think neglect is taking place it is important to report it to someone you can trust.

Get in touch

Care home abuse can be difficult to come to terms with. You want your loved one to experience the best care but this isn’t always the case. If you suspect your loved one is being subject to maltreatment at a care home facility, you may be eligible to receive compensation on their behalf. Although submitting a claim cannot erase the physical and psychological abuse your loved one has endured, it is a way of holding abusers accountable for what they have done. For further advice please contact our team of trained solicitors at [email protected].