Rosena Allin-Khan MP: Parliamentarians must act now to safeguard our vulnerable adults in care homes
There must be greater accountability when atrocities take place against our elderly – their voices must be heard, says Rosena Allin-Khan MP.
I am proud to have been granted my first Adjournment debate on the immensely important matter of the safeguarding of vulnerable adults in care homes across the United Kingdom.
For families up and down the U.K., the growing reality is to bear witness to their loved ones being overcome with the challenging symptoms of degenerative illnesses. As an A&E doctor, I have had to console relatives who are at breaking point because they can simply no longer manage with their parent’s ever-increasing care needs. The decision to stop providing care, within the home setting, is a guilt ridden, heart-breaking conclusion to come to terms with, but is done under the assumption that care homes can provide a much greater level of care. What if this is not the case?
Many families are increasingly reliant on extra care facilities and nursing homes to manage the healthcare needs of their elderly and vulnerable relatives. The heart-wrenching feeling of visiting dozens of care homes to find one that may be suitable for your parent is hard enough – in the back of one’s mind are always the questions of ‘will the care be good enough?’ and ‘will my parent be safe here?’ Sadly, my family and I have found out the hard way, what happens when the answer to both of these questions is ‘no’.
My father lived quite content in an extra-care facility in Wandsworth for a year, until the unimaginable happened. On numerous occasions since April 2018, my father was found bloodied, bruised, and unconscious in suspicious circumstances, in a home which we had been told was safe, with no explanation for how these injuries occurred. The past ten months have been an uphill struggle with Wandsworth Council and the care provider, London Care, to discover exactly what happened. They have failed to provide satisfactory answers to our questions. If it has been this difficult for my brother and I, it is unthinkable what an elderly woman, with health concerns of her own, who is attempting to look after her husband, is experiencing at a moment of crisis like this.
For anyone living with a family member with dementia or other degenerative illness, they will tell you that this adult is just as dependent on you as any child would be. So why should the care our elderly receive be any less rigorously held to account than that for a child? I have two young daughters who are both able communicate to me when something is wrong, when they are unwell or when someone has upset them. My father cannot even communicate this – he does not even have the power of speech at his disposal, yet there are no measures in place to investigate what happened to him. The reality is that we may never know – I cannot let this happen to any other families.
With an ageing population and an increase in degenerative illnesses, this is an issue that is only going to get worse. As parliamentarians, we need to act now, to ensure that even more families do not experience the horror of finding their loved one bruised, bleeding and terrified. Fundamentally, there must be greater accountability when atrocities take place against our elderly – their voices must be heard.
Rosena Allin-Khan is Labour MP for Tooting.