My mother has been in care at (XYZ nursing home) for over 15 months. After a year the facility approached me to advise that my mother would need to be moved into High Care because she needed 2 people to assist her to go to the toilet etc. I was assured by management that there would be double the number of staff in the high care unit and she would get a much higher level of attention.
Unfortunately, I believed the management and agreed for her to be moved. However, this has proven to be a very bad decision as my mother has lost contact with several staff that she had a very good personal relationship with to being treated like a total stranger with little care.
On several occasions I have visited my mother to find her sitting on her chair which is saturated in urine. They appear not to be putting enough booster pads on her to prevent herself from wetting. Even when she presses the call button it sometimes takes 20 minutes for someone to arrive and they come and advise that 'the other staff member' is on break and to wait 30-45 minutes. Elderly people with incontinence can’t wait. Also when they have changed her clothes they have put her back on the wet chair.
Other relatives of residents at XYZ share my concerns and it is obvious from the demeanour of staff that they also have concerns, which, for professional reasons that I respect, they are hesitant to express openly to residents or their relatives.
My central concern is that for the past 2 years the care being delivered at XYZ has declined dramatically from the hard won reputation that this centre had built over prior years.
Summarised below are my concerns under a number of headings
Adequacy of resident care:
- Disturbing instances have arisen in which insufficient qualified staff are available to meet urgent needs of residents;
- Staff are distressed that in key areas they have insufficient time to address the needs of the residents they are assigned to care for;
- A recent example of a patient suspected of having a stroke, not having her symptoms properly assessed within the critical 4-hour timeframe. Because of the delay, permanent damage has occurred that could have been avoided;
- The quality of meals has materially declined, often being served cold and inedible and contain a lot of gristle in the meals for residents on the 1st floor which is a huge health risk as they could choke;
- Constant changing of staff is disruptive to resident care and their ongoing sense of security and wellbeing.
- Staff morale is seriously depressed with a high proportion of staff actively looking for jobs elsewhere;
- Absences are invariably un-relieved due to inadequate rostering practices; there are regular instances of staff who live over 1-hours’ drive from XYZ being called at short notice to attend for a 4-hour relief shift; hardly a fair proposition for a person on low income with family commitments;
- The non-use of agency staff to relieve absences is celebrated while permanent staff are expected to pick up the work of those who are absent;
- Staff turnover seems high by industry standards;
- Management communication with staff is closed and management seem unwilling to take on board staff views – staff do not feel safe to raise genuine concerns with XYZ management;
- Staff are discouraged from striving to improve their qualifications to perform their roles – in one instance a staff member who achieved Registered Nurse status while employed at XYZ was told by management she would never be employed at this level by XYZ;
- Management communication with the relatives of residents is often defensive and argumentative; there is always a defensive answer and little genuine response or action to address concerns raised;
- Leave management is ad-hoc and appears to be driven by financial rather than resident service priorities – all staff have been advised that they must reduce their leave balances to less than 4 weeks before 30 June yet there seems to be no effective leave planning, and absences are frequently not relieved leading to staff feeling they are letting residents down.
- Resident safety is compromised when facilities such as lifts (of which there are only 2 at XYZ) are unserviceable for extended periods of several days/weeks. Recently my mother was taken to hospital and the only way the ambulance could transport her was via walking her through the garden on a cold wet winters day because the other lift cannot take a stretcher. When she returned a week later again she had to be taken in via the garden because the main lift was still inaccessible. This surely must be of huge OH&S issue.
- Screening seems to be inadequate when new residents with severe psychiatric disorders are admitted and violent incidents occur as a result;
- One male resident has frequently walked into my mother’s room uninvited. Staff seem unable to prevent this
Since most of the issues seem to have arisen or intensified following the appointment of the current manager at XYZ, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there are now deep seated management issues that need urgently to be addressed.
Given recent media coverage of issues at XYZ I strongly believe my concerns are real and will not go away unless addressed. There needs to be an urgent, thorough and independent investigation resulting in a committed plan of action to address the issues.
It has also become very evident that there are no staff ratios in aged care. This issue needs to be addressed URGENTLY before we have a major catastrophe in an Aged Care facility. In my mother’s high care unit there is a nurse and two assistants to look after 30 high care residents. It is very sad to see your loved ones at a time of their life when they should be receiving the best of care in their twilight years to be treated like animals today.
Mary Mead, Camberwell (not real name)