The crisis in social care is laid bare today as a report reveals how vulnerable people are forced to eat evening meals in the middle of the afternoon so overstretched carers can cram in home visits.
The report exposes how elderly, sick and disabled people are often left stranded without food or vital medication – including insulin for diabetes – for hours as carers are delayed or miss appointments altogether.
Families said many carers were so poorly trained they lacked essential skills such as being able to boil an egg or wash somebody.
The report exposes how elderly, sick and disabled people are often left stranded without food or vital medication – including insulin for diabetes – for hours as carers are delayed or miss appointments altogether
Experts warned that the report, by independent care champion Healthwatch England, was ‘yet another warning signal’ that the ‘crumbling’ social care system was struggling to cope with a lack of funding, rising costs and increasing demand.
One woman, from Halton in Cheshire, said her mother was consistently made to eat at 3.30pm – despite her complaints that it was not a suitable time for an evening meal.
Another, from the Isle of Wight, revealed their relative was given breakfast at 11.30am and lunch only 45 minutes later at 12.15pm. One care user, from Redcar and Cleveland, said they had gone two weeks without a shower as carers did not have time to wash them.
Around 673,000 people in England rely on carers to help them with everyday tasks. Up to 60 per cent of people relying on home care have dementia.
For the report, Healthwatch England interviewed 3,415 home care users, their families and carers from 52 areas. They found carers frequently arrived at different times or missed appointments.
A family member of one care user, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, said: ‘Recently, they forgot to arrange a teatime and bedtime visit. If I had not visited Mum that day, she would not have been given her tea and she would have been sat in her chair all night.’
One in seven care users in the Newcastle area said they missed medications because carers failed to turn up.
Diabetic patients from London and Hampshire complained they were put at risk when carers did not arrive to help them take insulin. Families said there was a huge lack of consistency in care and raised concerns about the high turnover of staff, with some vulnerable people seeing up to 20 carers a week.
The report also revealed a shocking lack of training, with patients left unwashed as carers did not understand how to use bath hoists.
One in seven care users in the Newcastle area said they missed medications because carers failed to turn up
Most people interviewed for the report were positive about the fact home care let them stay as independent as possible.
But Healthwatch warned that there was a need to improve planning, consistency and continuity of care, as well as improving basic skills of carers. Experts said more funding and support was needed to keep social care functioning as the ageing population grows.
Rob Burley, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘This is yet another warning signal that the crumbling social care system is laying intolerable stress on both staff and care users.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We have introduced tougher inspections of care services to drive up standards, provided an additional £2billion for adult social care, and have committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term.’