Some of the most disturbing and distressing news reports in recent years have involved vulnerable adults and the elderly suffering abuse and prolonged neglect in Care Homes.
A care home resident should feel safe and protected in what is essentially their ‘home’.
But shockingly, there are increasing reports of vulnerable people suffering serious mental, physical, and even sexual abuse, at the hands of their so called ‘carers’.
If you or a loved one has suffered abuse in a care home, nursing home or other care facility setting, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
We understand that stopping the abuse and bringing those responsible to justice will always be the priority, of course, but victims may also be able to seek financial compensation for any mental or physical harm caused by the abuse they suffered.
How Common Is Care Home Abuse?
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report from 2020 estimated that 1 in 6 adults over the age of 60 had been subjected to some form of elder abuse in a nursing home or wider community setting.
And the true figures are expected to be much higher, as they suggested that only 4% of cases are ever actually reported.
There have been several high-profile cases in the UK where those found guilty of such abuse have been jailed.
Early in 2022, 3 men were jailed for serious abuse carried out on a number of residents at Gower Lodge in Swansea, and even more alarming was the conviction of 13 staff back in 2017, found guilty of a wide range of abusive behaviour towards residents of a care facility in Devon.
These are only two examples of proven care home abuse, and sadly there are many many more, tragically showing this to be a nationwide problem.
What Is Classed As Abuse In A Care Home?
Nursing home abuse is defined as a violation of trust, by an act (or a failure to act) that results in the harm of a care home resident.
This generally applies to the elderly, but younger vulnerable adults may also be resident in a care home, nursing home or care facility.
It is the care home’s responsibility to ensure their residents come to no unnecessary harm and these establishments owe their residents a legal ‘duty of care’.
If this duty of care is breached and there is evidence of abuse taking place at the care home, a claim for compensation may be sought.
Examples of abuse may include the following:
1) Physical Abuse
This includes any form of violence that injures or significantly harms a resident in their care and, in the most serious of cases, could lead to a case of wrongful death.
2) Emotional Abuse
Behaviour such as shouting at, threatening or belittling a resident can fall under the definition of abuse.
3) Financial Abuse
This may include situations such as a staff member taking advantage of a resident and convincing them to pay large amounts of money for items that the staff have kept themselves.
Cash or debit cards might also have been used or stolen to make purchases the resident is unaware of.
4) Sexual Abuse
This applies to any sexual contact made towards a resident who can not give consent.
Even if a person is deemed capable of giving consent, however, any sexual contact should be thoroughly investigated.
It could still be wholly inappropriate or due to some form of coercion, so warrants further scrutiny.
5) Care Home/Nursing Home Neglect
This relates to the sub-standard care of any elderly or vulnerable resident at the home.
Neglect may lead to dehydration, malnutrition or otherwise avoidable pressure sores/ulcers.
It may also result in medication not being properly administered, which could result in medical complications or an early decline in the resident’s health.
Sadly, many different forms of abuse can occur in these settings and so it may be prudent to seek help from those who have experience in dealing with such care home abuse claims, to get the appropriate advice before launching a claim.
Claims Compass can help you start this process.
Why Should I Claim For Compensation?
Financial Compensation in these cases is intended to right a wrong.
Making a claim, if successful, may provide help in dealing with any additional medical expenses incurred from the physical, mental or emotional fall-out of the care home abuse/neglect.
It should also refund the victim for any financial abuse that may have taken place.
Compensation may come directly from the care home or the abuser, but more often than not, it will be negotiated and paid out by their insurers.
If a care home abuse compensation claim is launched, it will signify the seriousness of the case and could be an important part of making sure the care home and/or the staff member involved never causes harm again.
Sadly, complaints from residents or their family to care home managers may not be appropriately acted upon until a legal case is brought against them. Financial penalties can improve future decisions.
It has been suggested that care home abuse may result due to understaffing issues, a lack of experience or training, or from staff burnout, but there is no excuse for harming anyone who is dependent on their care.
Care Homes must ensure all staff are fully trained to deal with their resident’s individual needs and make sure they are fully supported to do so, even in challenging circumstances.
If you or your family have been a victim of care home abuse, you have every right to consider filing a claim and it may help to financially compensate a move to another care home, if necessary.
What Actions To Take If Abuse Is Suspected?
If you witness or get told about abusive behaviour towards someone in a care home, there are several things you can do to tackle and report this.
The initial thing though, however difficult, is to stay calm. Take time to listen to your loved one and get as much information as they are able to give you about the abuse/neglect.
Do not rush into immediately challenging the person involved, or the care home manager, until you have gathered all the details of what has happened. Then we suggest the following steps ..
1) Take Notes / Keep A Diary
If there is no immediate serious harm, make as many notes as you can of what you were told, then keep a diary of times, dates and names etc, so you can gather evidence of a pattern of behaviour.
Take photos of any minor injuries, bruising, cuts etc, but be mindful of whether these indicate your loved one is in danger.
2) Who To Inform
If you have a general concern about the care of your loved one and you have a good relationship with the care home manager, ask to see them privately and explain your concerns.
It may be possible to resolve minor issues in this way, without them escalating.
However, if they are not resolved, or you feel the matter should be escalated to outside authorities, see below.
If the care home is local authority owned and operated, contact the local council and social services. They will determine what action to take.
If the home is privately owned, then report your issue to the Care Quality Commission. They will make a safeguarding referral and discuss whether a formal investigation is required.
You can also talk to a charity, such as Age UK, who have experienced advisors on hand to discuss safeguarding issues like these. They are independent and can advise on the next course of action.
You may also wish to speak to the local GP of the person involved, so they are aware of your concerns and perhaps even the local MP if your voice is not being heard or taken seriously.
3) Get Legal Advice
As mentioned earlier, the priority is always to stop the abuse and prevent it from happening again and, where necessary, bringing those responsible to justice.
However, besides the above, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
If the victim is able to do so, they can seek it for themselves, but if they are unable to, their next of kin should be able to apply on their behalf.
Given the complexity of some care home abuse claims, it may be wise to discuss the case with an experienced claims advisor or solicitor.
Claims Compass can arrange a no-obligation, free call from an experienced adviser in this field, ready to discuss your case and determine if you could have a valid claim.
They can handle much of the legal process for you, usually on a no-win-no-fee basis and guide you through all the elements of making such a claim.
Depending on the evidence and the willingness of the care home or their insurers to accept liability for the wrongdoing, many cases are negotiated and settled out of court.
This is where experience of dealing with claims can help to secure the right level of compensation.
Care Home Abuse FAQ:
1) What To Do If Abuse Is Suspected In A Care Home
The action to take in these distressing circumstances largely depends on the severity of the abuse and the type of care home that the resident is in.
First and foremost, if there are serious injuries present that require urgent medical assistance, call an ambulance and if you believe a crime has been committed, then you should call the police.
However, if your concerns are less serious, you may be able to discuss them with the care home manager to get a resolution.
On the other-hand, if you want a more formal complaint to be lodged, then the reporting method depends on the type of care facility.
If the resident is in a local authority funded care home, you should contact the local council and social services, but if the care home is privately owned and funded, then contact the Care Quality Commission instead.
Both routes will trigger a safeguarding investigation and the relevant authorities will work with you and the care home to establish what is happening/has happened.
Age UK and even the person’s local GP or MP may be able to get involved if you feel your concerns are not being taken seriously.
2) What Is The Most Common Abuse In Nursing Homes?
It is beyond the comprehension of many of us that such abuse can occur in a facility where the elderly and vulnerable rely on others for their personal care and welfare, but sadly it does happen.
There have been many examples reported in the media, some leading to convictions and jail for the worst offenders.
Sadly this appears to be a nationwide problem. Common examples of abuse in these settings include physical abuse (hitting or another violent act of harm), emotional abuse (verbal abuse, shouting, threatening or belittling), sexual abuse (any sexual contact made without consent or coercion to do so), financial abuse (using a resident’s cash or cards to fraudulently make purchases) and neglect (the wrongful action or inaction of a care routine that causes harm).
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or has been abused in the past, this article gives helpful information on who to contact at this difficult time.
We also provide details of how to make a claim for financial compensation, for care home abuse, and how to find out if you have a valid case.
3) Can I Still Make A Claim For Care Home Abuse If My Relative Died?
If your relative died due to the neglect or abuse sustained in their care home and you have evidence to back up this claim, then yes, you can absolutely make a claim for compensation.
All care homes, be they privately owned or council operated, have a duty of care to their residents.
Wrongful death compensation cases have been brought against these types of establishments in the past, where relatives have been able to prove the care home failed to uphold their duty of care.
This could be due to the vulnerable resident sustaining physical, mental or sexual abuse, or by way of serious and prolonged neglect, leading to avoidable medical complications that directly caused or contributed to their death.
It is important to get the right type of professional advice if you think this may have happened to your loved one, so you may wish to fill in the Claims Compass enquiry form and speak to an experienced claims advisor for more details.
Finding out that a loved one has suffered any form of abuse in a care setting will be an emotional and distressing experience. Let us help you take on those responsible and seek out the financial compensation the victim deserves.