Care home residents are being left in re-used continence pads, denied trips to the toilet and kept indoors for days on end due to severe staff shortages, according to a survey by Unison.
It found 83% of care workers said they were so rushed they were compromising the dignity and well-being of residents, despite 80% saying they regularly worked through their breaks.
“The care system is failing the elderly and the vulnerable – and those staff struggling to provide the best support possible”
The findings are based on survey responses from more than 1,000 care staff working in private and local authority care homes across the UK.
The union claimed they presented a worrying picture of residents being denied the most basic levels of care.
The survey found 89% of respondents blamed a lack of staff, with 27% not having the time to help older people eat and drink.
A similar percentage of care workers also reported often being too busy to take people to the toilet, or notice if a resident’s health has deteriorated.
“One of our wheelchair-bound residents will often sit for hours smelling of urine”
Others said there was often not enough time to help residents wash their hair, or cut their nails.
In addition, care workers noted that they were rarely able to stop for a brief chat with the people they were looking after or take them outside.
According to the survey, 27% of employers were forcing staff to ration equipment like wheelchairs, wet wipes, gloves, continence pads and hoists.
Some staff said they were resorting to re-using continence pads on residents because of budget cutbacks.
A respondent said: “One of our wheelchair-bound residents will often sit for hours smelling of urine because she’s only allowed two (continence) pads a day.”
“Continence pads run out twice a month, wheelchairs are either broken, have missing footplates or are too small for larger residents. New wheelchairs are usually donated by the families of residents who have passed away,” said another.
Other issues highlighted by the report included a lack of safety checks on residents and not having enough time to do the necessary paperwork for care plans.
The union published the results to coincide with the start of Unison’s local government conference in Brighton on Sunday.
It is urging councils and care home owners, in both the voluntary and private sector, to adopt a new residential care charter so standards can be raised.
It follows on from the union’s ethical care charter, which aims to raise standards of care for people living in their own homes, as well as enhance the treatment of homecare workers.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The care system is failing the elderly and the vulnerable – and those staff struggling to provide the best support possible.
“Significant change needs to happen if respect and dignity are to be restored and standards improved in care homes,” he said.
“It’s shocking that some care home owners are being allowed to look after people when they don’t have enough staff to deliver quality care,” he added.
A total of 1,003 residential care workers across the UK responded to the survey, which was carried out 3 May-2 June 2017, with 69% working for a private care provider.