Media Releases

Rest home “horror stories” will continue

While “horror stories” of inadequate care and neglect of elderly residents in rest-homes come under the media spotlight from time to time, the sad reality is that such cases are not rare, according to aged care industrial adviser with the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO), Rob Haultain.

Two just-released reports by the Deputy Health and Disability Commisisoner (HDC), Rae Lamb, detail inadequate care at Villa Gardens rest-home in Christchurch. One details the inadequacies of care of an 88 year-old man who suffered massive weight loss – eight kilograms in ten days – after he transferred to the hospital wing of the rest-home. The other details the care of a woman with dementia, who was not showered for a year.

Commenting on these reports, Haultain said they painted an appalling, but all too common picture, of too few registered nurses with too much work, untrained caregivers and an unsupportive management. “These two cases are a powerful illustration of the conflict between caring and profit. And it is not just within Villa Gardens or the Oceania Group that such conflict is evident. We hear daily from nurses and caregivers working in rest-homes of inadequate care and sometimes outright neglect of elderly residents because there are not enough trained staff to provide even basic care.”

NZNO had been campaigning for years for more funding, better pay and working conditions, more training for rest-home staff and legally enforcable staffing ratios. “But our pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears. There seems little political will to tackle the systemic issues that afflict this sector. All our large rest-home chains are overseas owned and their bottom line is a return to shareholders and that can and does mean, too often, there are not enough staff to provide quality care to residents,” Haultain said.

She questioned just how much difference HDC reports actually made. “It is hard to read what those two elderly residents endured at the end of their lives. The deputy HDC can make recommendations and Oceania can apologise profusely to the residents’ families for the short falls in care but unless and until the systemic failures that lead to these horror stories are addressed, then there will be more of them.”

Haultain also said many families found it difficult to complain about the lack of care for their loved ones. “Too often families are silenced, out of fear that if they do raise their concerns, their loved ones will suffer even more, or they simply haven’t the wherewithal to complain or the knowledge of how complain to the HDC. While these two recent reports have highlighted gross inadequacies at one rest-home, sadly there are many similar cases in rest-homes throughout the country which are never exposed to public scrutiny.”


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