Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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New laws for old-age homes
There is a lot of abuse of the elderly in old age homes, including administering insulin with sewing needles and leaving paralysed residents lying in urine for days. This was the information passed on to the Guardian by a registered homeowner who said a lot of abuse is happening in non-registered homes. There has been an increase in the number of people who are 60 and over more of whom are being placed in homes because female relatives are no longer at home to take care of them.
Director of Gentle Heart Geriatric in Arima, Santiker Mayo, was asked to give her response to new stringent laws that will crack down on abuse in old age homes. She welcomed them the laws, saying they are needed because she witnessed a lot of elderly abuse in places she worked. “I saw residents being given insulin with sewing needles, helpless people lying in urine and Alzheimer patients being roughed up.”
Mayo said she opened her own home seven years ago but said it needs repairs. She runs the home on government pensions residents pay her with, she said. One of the laws stipulates strict building codes for old age homes, including how wides doors should be, in what direction they should swing and the types of flooring. A worker at At Home Retirement Inc in Sangre Grande, who asked to withhold her identity, also welcomed the new laws.
Her concern was for staff employed at old age homes who are paid below the minimum wage and made to work long hours. She said none of those things happen at the home where she works which is licenced. A new law makes it an offence to pay a worker at an old age home below the minimum wage. It also said the number of staff should correspond to the number of residents and having one burnt out worker cooking, cleaning, washing and socialising with the elderly will no longer be allowed.
Kele Ransome is director of All Care Home Services, which provides caregivers for the elderly in their own homes. She said she opened the business precisely because of the abuse that is going on in old age homes. Ransome, also welcoming the new laws, said: “The elderly are not treated with value. To regulate their care will give them a sense of value.”
• Licencing will be mandatory
• Homes will be classified into two types, those where residents need little or no supervision, and those where a registered nurse is required
• Licencing fees will be linked to the type of home and number of residents and will be valid for two years. Homes will then be inspected to ensure they meet stipulated requirements.
• The quality of food and water and financial records of the homes will be inspected.
• Managers or members of staff who block the inspection team will have to pay a $25,000 fine or spend two years in jail on a summary conviction, or $50,000 or five years for an indictable offence.
• Managers and staff will face fines and imprisonment for abuse of residents.
• If homes do not meet requirements, licences can be suspended or revoked.
• No longer can someone open a home without money and rely totally on the government to fund it. The operator has to produce a certificate of good character and proof of adequate funding.
• Strict building codes are required, including a certain width for doors and non-slippery flooring. Homes have to be insured for, at least, $100,000 and managers have to submit bi-annual reports.
• Mandatory social stimulation for residents.
• Staff must correspond to the number of residents. For type one homes, one staffer to every ten residents is required and for type two, one to every five.
• Managers who pay staff below the minimum wage and withhold paying their national insurance will face fines and imprisonment.
• The police and the Division of Ageing must be notified when a resident dies.
• Residents and other whistleblowers can lodge complaints with the Division of Ageing, as well as relatives and members of the public who visit homes.
Central Statistical Office’s figures on the increase in people 60 and over
1960 – 49,988
1970 – 62,668
1980 – 83,159
1990 – 108,014
2000 – 120,434