How Ethics Reporting Can Improve Quality of Life in Care Homes

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on October 22, 2015

How Ethics Reporting Can Improve Quality of Life in Care HomesDon’t let that inviting facade misrepresent the truth inside. Are care homes mismanaged and understaffed?

Lack of oversight can lead to incidents such as wrong doses of medicine being given to patients, calls for assistance being ignored, or abuse by staff and/or volunteers.

Unfortunately, for one Calgary senior, abuse by staff could possibly have ended his life. Three women are convicted of assaulting a 92 year old man at the Calgary care home last year. In February 2014, these three women were caught on tape assaulting the man, a client at the home who was bed-ridden and frail. After telling his family that he was being abused, the client’s family placed hidden cameras in his room. What they recorded was appalling. The man died one month later.

The problem is, such workers aren’t bound to standards that hospital workers are subject to, and this workforce is unregulated. At a hospital, almost everyone has to answer to not only management, but their colleagues. But at care facilities, it’s up to each organization to set the standard – and there can be a high turnover in this industry.

Another problem? With an aging population quickly heading towards needing this level of care, this is a growth industry.

An important part of promoting dignity in this industry is ensuring staff and employees are working in an environment that encourages them to challenge poor or dangerous practices. Supportive leadership and an open and honest culture can enable individuals to feel comfortable about raising concerns. Unfortunately, some work environments don’t have open cultures and employers are not so receptive to concerns about malpractice.

RELATED: One Important Reason Why Healthcare Whistleblowers Need to Be Protected

Blowing the whistle is not easy but it is a vital part of safeguarding those working, or living, in care homes. People will not speak up if they fear retaliation or they think doing so to be futile. With the growing number of seniors coming into care homes and the potential for a boom in this industry, to hold employees and volunteers back from reporting incidents of malpractice, could end up costing lives, and guaranteeing legal action.

This industry should consider the following if it wants to keep up with our aging population:

  • Does the company have a whistleblower culture with zero tolerance for retaliation?
  • Is the whistleblower policy user-friendly and accessible to all employees, volunteers, and family members?
  • Are complaints dealt with early, and in a way that ensures the investigation process is fully communicated?
  • Is there an auditable log of all evidence, action and feedback from complaints?

How to ensure every care home is upholding the highest standards when it comes to patient, and employee, safety:

  • Encourage people to raise their concerns – inform them of where they can go to raise concerns anonymously and confidentially without retaliation
  • Act swiftly to investigate any concern that is raised – this promotes a culture of trust and respect, telling staff, volunteers, and family that their complaints will be listened to
  • Offer support to the complainant where required
  • Ensure the complainant is constantly updated regarding their complaint, informing them of the progress
  • Give a clear reasoning on the outcome of the complaint, whether substantiated or no cause found

Some of the benefits of having an ethics reporting system in place in this industry:

  • Protecting staff, volunteers and the public
  • Maintaining and protecting the organization’s reputation
  • Deterring wrongdoing
  • Minimizing risk by learning of potential problems early
  • Improving performance and management awareness
  • Improving staff morale and reducing turnover
  • Demonstrating that the organization is accountable and well managed
  • Reducing the risk of anonymous and malicious leaks
  • Minimizing costs and compensation from accidents, investigations and litigation
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Due to the nature of this type of industry, where we essentially hand over our loved ones into the care and trust of other people, it’s important for owners / operators / management to ask the question: “what type of care would I expect for my loved one, and if I had an issue to raise, is there a place where I could raise it without fear of retaliation?”

For families, it might be one of the most important questions you ask of the care home you’re about to move your loved one into – if there is suspected malpractice, are there avenues for staff, volunteers, and family to speak-up and report the incident and know that it will be handled accordingly?

Creating a speak-up culture is only a matter of opening one’s mind and stepping outside of the box that society’s fear has built around us. Every care home should have one. Download a free eBook.

eBook: 5 Steps to Create a Whistleblower Culture