It’s the kind of 21st century tragedy that could and should be avoided. And yet it keeps happening again and again.
Eighty-nine year old dementia sufferer John Makin, from Morley, claims to have been subjected to a shocking catalogue of neglect by his combination of council-appointed and private home carers. He pays up to £17 an hour for the latter.
Time and again we hear heartbreaking stories of older people being let down by the care system. Why are we still failing our most vulnerable?
Among many disturbing allegations, his neighbour Tracey O’Shea says his weight plunged because he is wearing the wrong size dentures, and his carers failed to get him the urgent dental care he needed despite requests. It left him unable to eat properly - and too upset and confused to communicate what was wrong.
She also says she found him lying on the living room floor after his TV fell on top of him.
She had begged for his carers to come in earlier in the morning as he is an early riser - but it didn’t happen.
Urine-sodden bedsheets were unwashed, she says, and vital hospital appointments - to which he should have been accompanied - were missed.
It is also claimed that on at least one occasion Mr Makin’s medicines were given wrongly to him.
A dossier of allegations has now been handed to Leeds City Council and an investigation has been launched.
Miss O’Shea, who suffers from polio, says she has been forced to take on a de-facto support-carer role because of multiple failings by the system.
But her personal circumstances are forcing her to move away to Cornwall soon and she fears her friend, who has no family nearby to help, could die if there is no intervention from the authorities.
She contacted the YEP after, she says, becoming fed up of the authorities “passing the buck”.
“I was told not to contact the YEP, to leave him with his dignity - but they have left him with none for years!” she said. “It’s horrendous. How many other people is this happening to?”
Miss O’Shea said Mr Makin’s care team had changed several times in recent months, but Leeds City Council’s social services department - which oversees his care - had now stepped in to take over after the latest serious of alleged failings.
She said: “He is distressed at the way he has been treated, and confused because of different people coming in and out every day.
“His trousers have shrunk from a 40 inch waist to 32 inches in a year.
“Every part of the system has let him down. I have had to fight tooth and nail. They expect an 89 year old man with dementia to fend for himself, a man who can’t talk on the phone.
“He started crying when I said I had to move to Cornwall. All he needs is some common sense. They are not doing their jobs right and I am worried something worse will happen to him.”
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “I can confirm we have received a complaint about the care received by Mr Makin, which we are taking very seriously.
“We will thoroughly investigate all of the claims raised to ensure he is receiving the correct level of support and will take any further action if necessary. As part of this investigation a senior manager has already visited Mr Makin and Ms O’Shea at his house to discuss their concerns.”
‘OUR SYSTEM IS FAILING AGAIN AND AGAIN TO TREAT THE ELDERLY WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT’
Exactly a year ago, the YEP reported the heartbreaking case of Lily Latham, a disabled 88-year-old who was left stranded in her bed for FIFTEEN hours, unable to even go to the toilet. She was found sobbing in her bed.
But it seems that a full 12 months later nothing has changed - and lessons have not been learned.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Time and again we hear heartbreaking and shocking stories of older people who are being let down by the care system.
“It is deeply distressing that yet another shocking story has come to light of an older person who has been badly let down by a system that has failed to treat them with dignity and respect or protect them from neglect.
“There is no excuse for older people to be treated in this way and those who do need to be held to account for their actions. There must be zero tolerance of grossly poor care.”
She added: “The care of the most vulnerable in our society is one of the most important issues facing the country. It is too important to cast aside. These stories must stop – why are we still failing our most vulnerable?”
The charity’s Care in Crisis campaign has already helped to reform the social care system and helped bring in the new Care Bill 2014. However the effects of that are yet to be seen.
Personal dignity and protection from neglect sit at the heart of the bill. And while the charity recognises that “a huge step in the right direction” has been taken, it has called for reassurance about how the future care system will work - and be funded - in the future.
WILL NEW LAW USHER IN GENUINE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER?
The Care Act (2014) passed into law in May last year and, according to a report approved by Leeds City Council’s decision-making cabinet last summer, it will be implemented in the city from April this year.
The council has pledged the new act will tie in with its existing ‘Better Lives’ vision for people with care needs.
The act represents “a fundamental shift in adult social care services and redefines the relationship between the state, local authorities, the citizen, service users and carers”, the report says.
The council has been given £3.4m by the Government to implement the changes.