The memory of it still makes me shiver. A few years ago I witnessed unimaginable cruelty to some of the most vulnerable in our society, through the people who were supposed to care for them.
When I was a student, I spent a summer vacation in a nursing home, where I saw older people, many of whom had dementia, who were treated in completely nauseating ways.
Distressed residents remained tied to chairs; others were locked up in their bathrooms. On one occasion I unlocked a door to a storage room to find an older woman on the floor, crying and covered with her own droppings.
She was locked up there as & # 39; punishment & # 39; for disturbing staff by pressing its buzzer.
I went to the social service, which asked me to keep a log of everything. What happened? Yes, the owners fired the matron and the nursing home was closed – but it was reopened under a different name a few months later. And no one was arrested, no one punished.
These horrific revelations have echoes of the scandal of the private hospital in Winterbourne View eight years ago, in which horrific abuse of patients with special needs was exposed by another Panorama study (photo)
I recalled that time this week when I watched Panorama & # 39; s shocking undercover footage of caregivers allegedly abusing people with learning disabilities at the Whorlton Hall independent hospital in County Durham.
In the Thursday evening program, staff were told that the vulnerable patients they should look out for, scorn, provoke, and intimidate.
These horrific revelations have echoes of the scandal of the private hospital in Winterbourne View eight years ago, in which horrific abuse of patients with special needs was exposed by another Panorama study.
How can this terrible behavior happen again? Why did the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the body that should regulate these healthcare institutions, not stop?
A female patient in Wholrton Hall in County Durham is depicted being restrained by a rescuer
Amazingly enough, it was found that in 2017 the CQC inspected the privately managed NHS-funded Whorlton Hall hospital and the & # 39; good & # 39; has assessed. It has since apologized. But that is not good enough.
A serious problem is that the way the CQC handles performance measurement is disastrous with the bureaucratic tickbox mentality that is so common in quangos and government departments.
Inspectors focus on criteria that are easy to monitor and quantify, such as how medicines are stored, infection control procedures, policies on how complaints are treated and how up-to-date care plans are.
Of course these things are important. But the fact is that they only assess a limited aspect of the service provided and often do not address the actual quality of care at all.
The way in which these inspections are carried out cannot take into account whether the staff is compassionate, what their attitude is to the people they care about or whether they understand how important their task is.
Inspectors should spend more time talking to residents and their families and even go undercover if needed.
Another patient is depicted on the floor in Whorlton Hall, who was subjected to a BBC Panorama examination
It is clear that the way in which the CQC should assess home care institutions must change. But changing the way nursing homes are inspected and regulated is not enough. We also have to fight very hard against those who commit the abuse.
Ten employees of Whorlton Hall have been arrested and 16 days awaiting investigation.
But they must not only take disciplinary action and lose their job: they must feel the full force of the law. Persecution must be pursued in every case of abuse.
I also think there must be a shift in government policy. We need a culture change in care homes in the UK and to achieve this we need strong legislation.
Nothing will change until it becomes economically necessary for the owners of private care homes to ensure that abuse is eradicated rather than ignored. They must be held personally responsible for poor care, with hefty fines, not just to fire and re-open a few staff members under a new name.
When the owners themselves are held responsible, they will be much more interested in what happens in their homes instead of simply in how much money they earn.
Minimum qualifications for caregivers must be introduced, as well as have a professional governing body, such as nurses and doctors, that can regulate them.
Abuse does not belong in our care homes and we must send a message that it will not be tolerated.
Dr. Max writes … Lavender oil
I am a big fan of this natural remedy and I often suggest that patients suffering from stress or mild anxiety take it in capsule form before considering medication.
Indeed, someone recently told me how much it had helped her.
Research shows that lavender oil works on the same receptors in the brain as anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, but unlike these drugs, it is not addictive and causes no withdrawal symptoms.
Capsules are available at pharmacies or health food stores.
Research shows that lavender oil works on the same receptors in the brain as anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, but unlike these drugs, it is not addictive and causes no withdrawal symptoms
Surgery exploits human insecurity
A study published this week has shown that penis enlargement surgery does not work and entails a high risk of complications.
British experts who conducted the study discovered that many procedures cause physical and mental scars for people, and the majority are not satisfied with the results.
Despite the calls to ban the proceedings, the private sector continues to exploit men's uncertainties. Procedures can go up to £ 40,000 and many desperate men convince themselves that this is the answer to their problems.
It will not be, and in reality many men who undergo these operations have a seriously low self-esteem, while some have body dysmorphia (a mental illness where people fixate themselves to one part of their body and become convinced that it is distorted or needs adjustment ).
These men need psychological – not surgical – help.
Hidden prejudices that harm women
Health inequalities have been much in the news lately, with campaigners saying that women are getting a rough deal – something that the & # 39; gender health gap & # 39; is called. Research suggests that women are later diagnosed with Alzheimer's, that they are less likely to be prescribed painkillers and participate in clinical trials.
Another piece of research this week supports their argument.
Doctors are more likely to suffer heart failure in women than men because they assume it is a & # 39; male & # 39; disease, although 40 percent of patients are women.
Research suggests that women are later diagnosed with Alzheimer's, that they are less likely to be prescribed painkillers and participate in clinical trials
This is not explicit sexism – it simply does not occur to doctors that women can have heart problems. It is a good example of how unconscious prejudices affect our decisions.
I'm sure this happens elsewhere in medicine. I have seen it the other way around when doctors miss anorexia in men.
These assumptions do not only affect sex-based diagnoses. A few years ago I met a man in his seventies who had only been diagnosed with syphilis after months of illness, which nobody could explain – because no one thought he was sexually active.
Veg gives a belly full of cheers
There is increasing evidence that our gut health is related to our mental health. How this works is not yet clear, although it is interesting to note that, for example, the serotonin receptors that have common antidepressant targets are located in both our gut and brain.
According to new research published this week, improving bowel health can improve anxiety symptoms. Chinese researchers concluded that there was a clear link between the regulation of intestinal bacteria and a decrease in anxiety.
Moreover, he discovered that taking probiotics helped, but that the most successful intervention was actually the simplest: eating more fruits and vegetables. This allowed our natural gut bacteria – or & # 39; microbiota & # 39; – flowering, which in turn improved mental health.
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