A worrying report from the Commons Health Select Committee suggests that elderly people with dementia are being left at risk of abuse due to the "profoundly depressing and complacent" attitude by hospitals and care homes towards safeguards designed to protect patients. It suggests that the rules which are supposed to ensure dementia sufferers are protected are not working because some care providers simply ignore them.
Deprivation of liberty safeguards were introduced in 2009 to protect people who lack mental health capacity in an attempt to end the scandal of dementia patients being detained and restrained without justification. The laws mean care workers should only restrict the liberty of the most vulnerable if authorities agree that it is necessary to do so to protect them.
The Telegraph has reported however that recent investigations have identified that thousands of elderly people in care homes and hospitals have been subjected to blanket restrictions such as locked doors on wards and day rooms, to make life easier for staff. MPs said the rules were not working well, leaving many elderly people and those with learning disabilities at heightened risk of abuse.
Lucie Prothero, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “We have noticed an increase in enquiries from families of elderly dementia patients who are unhappy about the way their loved one has been cared for. There are many problems arising in the hospital setting relating to poor management of dementia patients, who for instance may become agitated, frightened and confused within that environment. If these patients are not properly managed, it can result in accidents occurring – we are seeing many instances where patients have suffered serious falls, sometimes resulting in death, which may have been avoided if their emotional state had been better understood and handled. It is vital that training be given in how to provide quality care to dementia patients, by appropriate use of deprivation of liberty safeguards to ensure their protection where appropriate, whilst also preserving their rights."