Like many of you I watched the programme this week about care homes. Four noteworthy people spent a few days in a home for the elderly and recorded their impressions.....it was thought and tear provoking but for me it revisited a time I had for the most part put behind me. The three years I spent as a lay inspector of care homes in Essex.
It had been one of John Major's bright ideas...to include people who worked in other professions to accompany the qualified inspectors as they went around the county doing their job.
I had a few days being trained and then I was ready...for my first inspection..
The care homes had a few days to prepare for the visit and I was very lucky in that most of my visits were done with the same man. He used to ask for me and we worked as a team.
Having had a few days to prepare, the homes would shunt us off to their office. The talk would go on till coffee time. The inspection of the books took us over the lunch hour....and all day there were things planned for us to do which made talking to the staff or the elderly very difficult with any degree of privacy.
We worked out a plan of campaign. After a short time I would ask to use the loo...often a member of staff would take me and wait for me...but I told them I was fine....I would make my way back under my own steam and then on my own I would explore.....talk to residents, talk to the staff, both cleaning and care variety. It was illuminating!
Disgruntled staff were only too eager to drop their bosses in it, and I saw and heard many appalling things.
This blog post could go on for pages so maybe it would be better to make them into stories one at a time.......but there are far too many so some editing is needed!
Suffice it to say that one care home was closed down and the owner sent to prison, another home was found to have a matron who was also the matron of two other homes and got three salaries for rushing between them all!
I had clearance for visiting homes for children as well as the elderly and on the whole these were bright happier places...
My visits took me all over Essex and we saw the very basic, cash starved homes as well as the grand private homes.....we discovered unkindness was fairly common but often dressed up as protection.
We found old people deprived of their pensions with no knowledge of what they were entitled to...We found couples split up who only saw each other once a week, despite a promise that they would be together...
I used to get home exhausted, mentally drained with a report to write! The first David would listen whilst I poured it out!
I gave it all up when I came to live here but have visited the homes here too of course....
There but for the grace of God.......