This was a new care home...out in the Essex countryside. It was a lovely old house and had another newly built facility in its grounds to house those who needed nursing care.
I looked round it with the inspector and following a well established routine I left the office fairly quickly to go walk about. The first thing I found was a bathroom which on paper didn't exist. It had a large bath in it which was full of unemptied bed pans. The smell was a bit of a give away.
During the morning I went to sit in a very large lounge to talk to the residents. A hair dresser was coming that day and one of the staff was talking orders....
"Who wants to have their hair done?" Several hands went up and the lady I was talking to just sat and looked wistful and pulled at her wispy grey hair.
"Are you not having yours done ?" I asked.....To my surprise she misted up....
"I have no money." she said..."I never have it done...not since I came here"
I didn't understand why she had no money......The pension was just enough to cover the fees its true but there was a rule then in place that they got some of it back each week......Forgive me...I can't remember how much or how it worked....it was a long time ago.
I made enquiries.....there was a ledger showing the small amount had indeed been drawn out.....had she forgotten?
No the explanation was a simple one...one of the staff collected it for her every week and she just never received it.
The matron was outraged of course when I pointed it out...The young lady involved was sacked on the spot....and I hope and trust that the old lady was then able to have her hair done when she needed it.
After this eventful morning a man asked me to go and talk to him privately.
His complaint was heart felt and accompanied by tears....
A year ago he and his wife had sold their house, a lovely home in Essex and had made enough money to live securely at the new care home for the rest of their lives....the problem was that the wife had needed nursing care and she was in the new place in the grounds whilst he was in the main house.
"We were told we would be together." he said....."I see her once a week.....she's in pieces...its not what we signed up."
I made enquiries of course......I was told that it was just very unfortunate...no one seemed at all concerned that this couple who had been married for 50 years were now separated against all of their wishes.
I saw other things that day which worried me too.....but those two stories were warnings that no matter how good a home may look from the outside, a bit of talking to both the residents and the staff was well worth it....
I just hope that the couple were able to see each other more often in the end!
Growing old is hell.....but its better than the alternative!