Last updated: 24.02.20

Abuse of the Elderly in Care Homes

Care homes provide an essential service for those in the later stages of life, and many elderly people and their families opt for care homes to ensure that the resident gets the best care possible. In most cases, they do receive this care from friendly, welcoming and professional nurses and care staff.

But unfortunately, there have been reported cases of severe elderly abuse in care homes across Britain in the last decade. In this article, we take a look at three case studies from across England, looking into what happened and what lessons were learned.

Hillcroft, Lancashire

In 2014, four care home workers from the Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest were convicted by Preston Crown Court of elderly abuse for a period of elderly abuse which saw them torment eight residents in the home who suffered from dementia.

Over a period of time that lasted from May 2010 to September 2011, Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore carried out a vindictive and heartless regime of abuse on the residents of Hillcroft. The abuse was carried out by the four who believed they were safe from incrimination, with the knowledge that the dementia sufferers would not remember their actions on account of their conditions. Residents age in the 70s to mid-80s suffered abusive actions. One was nearly tipped out of his wheelchair by a carer while many others were subjected to mockery and humiliation. One man had his foot stamped on and others had bean bags and balls thrown at their heads for the amusement of the tormentors.

The abuses were revealed after a whistle-blower from the nursing home raised their concerns to health inspectors and the Care Quality Commission who referred the situation to the local council. The abusers had been suspended follow previous allegations, but were reinstated at work following warnings. Follow the council’s investigations, Smith, Cairns, Pearson and Moore were arrested and put on trial for being carers involved in the ill treatment of a person with lack of capacity. All of the defendants pleaded guilty and received a total of 17 months in jail combined. Smith was given an eight month sentence, Cairns, a five month sentence, Moore, a four month sentence and Pearson, a 12 month community order. The detective in charge of the investigation described the actions of all four as ‘utter contemptible’, showing ‘complete disregard for the wellbeing of the people they had been instructed to care for’. The judge also ruled that the incidents were from an isolated section of the employees of Hillscroft, and the he was ‘satisfied that the care home in Slyne-with-Hest, is now a completely different environment’.

Orchid View, West Sussex

2013 saw a ruling from a court that the Orchid View care home in Copthorne, West Sussex was the site of ‘institutionalised abuse’ which resulted in the death of 19 of the home’s residents from neglect.

Orchid View, run by the now-closed Southern Cross care company, was rife with problems from the top of the chain to the bottom which were not addressed for over two years. This period saw the 19 deaths which were initially described as unexplained, before an investigation revealed that at least five of those deaths could be attributed to a fundamental lack of care and attention. Just some of the examples include residents being left forgotten in toilets, multiple drug administration errors, residents suffering broke bones which went without being diagnosed and nurses shutting doors on residents who needed help. One resident, Jean Halfpenny, was given too much of a certain drug which resulted in her death by overdose. A manager was accused of falsifying resulting forms and shredding earlier ones in a cover up. Other issues include a distinct lack of staff with only three staff members per 30 residents in some cases, a lack of clear management, as well as the fact that many residents went unfed and unbathed.

Southern Cross declared insolvency in 2012, shortly after the case of Orchid View came to light. The extent of the abuse was highlighted by a whistle blower who worked at the home. The whistle blower Lisa Martin said she had ‘witnessed too much poor management and care to vulnerable adults’ to not come forward. As well as Southern Cross, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a government agency in charge of overseeing care industries, also came under criticism for their handling of the case. The CQC had previously visited Orchid View and given it a ‘good’ rating just a year before in closed down in 2010. A statement for the CQC apologised for missing essential indicators, saying ‘ The way we worked when these serious incidents happened meant we did not respond to early warning signs, we were too easily reassured by the responses of Southern Cross and the people who worked there – and we did not take appropriate enforcement action quickly or strongly enough.’

They went on to detail the improvements they had made in the wake of the Orchid View scandal, stating that they are ‘CQC is now more responsive to safeguarding and other notifications of risk’.

Keldgate Manor, Yorkshire

Up in Hull, Yorkshire, a case in Keldgate Manor involved an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer called Freda Jobson suffer terrible abuse at the hands of her carers who mocked Johnson and left her with infected sores and severe dehydration.

Freda Jobson, a grandmother with four daughters, was at the Keldgate Manor care home from 2012 to 2015 after being placed there by her family. After becoming concern with the care that Freda was receiving, one of her daughters, Maddy Jobson, placed a spy camera concealed as an alarm clock in her care room to film what was going on behind closed doors. The camera’s footage revealed three carers, Sophie Hinchsliff, Danielle Snowdon and Tracey Priestley, mocking and humiliating the 85-year-old Freda, calling her a ‘gypsy-witch’ and imitating her groans. When Maddy raised her concerns, Freda was discovered with grievous infected sores across her body, with some too serious to be graded on a scale. The sores went down to the bone and were described by specialists as truly shocking, and certainly some of the worst pressure ulcers we have seen in our work.’

An investigation was launched which lead to the arrest and conviction of Hinchsliff, Snowdon and Priestley, who all pleaded guilty to the charges of ill-treating or wilfully neglecting someone without capacity. They were each handed a 12-month community order. The Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust also came under fire, for the fact that their team of nurses who worked at Keldgate Manor failed to adequately manage Freda sores. The trust acknowledged the shortcomings in a statement but went on to stress that it ‘never owned or ran Keldgate Manor, and was not responsible for the residential care Mrs Jobson received there’. 

Good care for the elderly in residential is essential to let residents enjoy their later years. Safeguarding them from abuse is an integral part of that process, and our safeguarding courses can help you develop a higher understanding of the practice. You can find our range of courses here.

You can also check out our useful and informative downloadable resources, including this checklist on spotting the signs of elderly abuse.