BY Ayesha Babar

What makes crime against children and the elderly so much more ghastly and upsetting is the fact that these are the most vulnerable segments of our society – and to exploit this vulnerability exposes gaps in the care that we provide to them.

There is currently a growing outrage in the UK around the standard of care provided, especially to the elderly that are suffering from or recovering from illness and do not have family and friends around to look after them.

Numerous incidents have come to light in the past few years, none more shocking than the one revealed last week where a 92-year old cancer patient was stolen from by the carer. The carer was caught on a camera, installed by the victim’s niece who suspected the theft after money had disappeared from her aunt’s bag a couple of times. The camera footage clearly shows the carer, Loraine Cenci, aiding the victim to go to the toilet and then leaving her there and returning back to rummage through her bag and pocket some cash from an envelope.

Was this always the case and is only being highlighted now with social media giving people more power to speak up? Not necessarily. Research shows that the standards of care have consistently dropped over the last few years as wages for carers have failed to keep up with other professions. This has resulted in many carers feeling disillusioned about their work and incentives with many high-quality workers leaving to pursue other careers. Some of those who are left behind are still in the field because of lack of options that they have. This encourages a vicious cycle, where poorer quality care workers do not feel like their wages match their work and so provide a lower level of service. It is the same phenomenon then that causes them to look elsewhere to make money, and often this is stealing from the very patients that they have a duty of care towards.

Care standards have dropped in recent years as the average carer's wages have dropped
Care standards have dropped in recent years as the average carer’s wages have dropped

Legal Aid workers have encouraged the use of a Lasting Power of Attorney for next of kin – this is can be of two kinds – an LPOA over health and wellbeing and/or over property and finances. If you believe that your parents or other relations close to you are vulnerable to such abuse and crime then speak to them about your concerns and see if it is possible for you to help them arrange their care and financial arrangements better.

As an elderly patient, if you suspect that you are a victim, it is important you raise an alarm. Remember help and advice is always available so do not let yourself be intimidated. Abuse may not be limited to just theft and finances – it may include sexual, physical and psychological harassment. Firstly, avoid confrontation with the carer if you are with the carer by yourself. The NHS advises that victims should try and contact someone who they trust as soon as possible and share their concerns. If that is not possible or you feel there is any immediate danger, the NHS runs a dedicated helpline at 0808 808 8141.

At the same time, it is imperative that the concerned government departments take notice of the situation. New training programmes for carers need to be introduced and the incentive structure has to be re-structured. Carers provide an essential service to some of the most vulnerable members of our society and it is our responsibility to ensure that it remains a viable profession. Only then will we see an improvement in caring standards.