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Council ordered to pay compensation after dementia patient left unwashed and in dirty clothes

By George Makin | Sandwell | News | Published:

A woman with severe dementia who refused to let care staff clean her was left in bed for long periods unwashed and in dirty clothes and suffered 'avoidable distress' – a local government watchdog has found.

The woman was left for long periods unwashed in bed

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has ordered Sandwell Council – which arranged for nursing at two privately run homes – to pay compensation to relatives and reduce its charges following any investigation.

Explaining his decision, the independent watchdog said : "Where councils commission care services from a social care provider we can treat the actions of the care provider as if they were the actions of that council. Any recommendations we make are therefore recommendations for the council."

Local authority bosses were criticised for taking too long to move the woman from the first residential unit which was unable to deal with her behaviour.

The Ombudsman also criticised the council’s poor response after her son complained about his mother’s care.

Referring to the woman as Mrs Y, his investigation revealed her residential nursing began in November 2017 after she was found wandering in the street.

Shortly afterwards, care managers at the home reported she was aggressive to staff, didn’t want to get out of bed and regularly refused support with washing and dressing.

She also began refusing food and drinks and after a GP visit was assigned a community psychiatric nurse.

In January 2018, a member of her family agreed to see if she could get Mrs Y to cooperate with washing, with the assistance of a member of staff, until the home was able take over this part of her care.

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But the Ombudsman found the council had failed to monitor the situation, saying as a result family members were left to shower her until she was moved to a second home in February, adding this “impacted on Mrs Y’s dignity and caused her avoidable distress’.

But in the new home, her behaviour escalated and she spent more time in bed, refused personal care and medication and was physically aggressive towards staff.

The Ombudsman found care staff had ‘made significant efforts to address Mrs Y’s behaviour. It involved the council’s quality team and GP and mental health team. It provided some care and support but it could not fully meet Mrs Y’s needs and was unable to do so from the start’.

In mid-July, her community psychiatric nurse contacted Sandwell over concerns the home was not meeting her needs and it was not a suitable placement.

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Council officers reported there continued to be a large number of incidents where Mrs Y was physically aggressive towards staff, was spending long periods in bed, refusing to change her clothes and was refusing medication.

In August, she was admitted to hospital.

Following a complaint by her family, Sandwell has now agreed to reduce the bill for the first home by 25 per cent to acknowledge Mrs Y’s needs were not fully met.

In addition, Sandwell has also reduce the bill for the second home to acknowledge the effect on Mrs Y’s dignity and the distress caused to her by its failure to fully meet her needs

The council also agreed to apologise to her son and pay him £250 to acknowledge the distress and frustration he was caused by the failings.

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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