Four caregivers at the Hillcrest Nursing Home in Lancaster, UK have been charged with mocking, bullying and physically assaulting patients, reportedly for their own amusement. The caregivers targeted eight patients with severe dementia, because they believed they would have no memory of their abuse. However, many patients were able to remember traces of the events and exhibited extreme distress when the actions took place.  See Daily Mail article.

Perhaps the worst offense was the repeated taunting and physical abuse with balls and beanbags. These items were supposed to be used for physical therapy, but were thrown at patients heads and at speeds entirely too fast for patients to catch. This frustrated and angered the patients, but only created laughter amongst caregivers. Other offenses include the stomping of feet, being dumped out of a wheelchair, the pulling of loose skin and even slaps across the face. In one incident an elderly man’s nipples were twisted and repeatedly flicked, resulting in harsh bruises. Any objections or signs of distress by the patients were met with even harsher treatment and continued abuse.

Despite their severe dementia, some patients would remember their abusers. One man refused to be put in the same hallway as his abuser after she was caught in bed with him and clung to his door frame when being wheeled out. Other patients were not as lucky, as the caregivers would repeatedly target patients with the most acute dementia and would target particular individuals. The continued abuse left lasting marks on the patients, both physically and mentally and continued for an alleged seventeen months.

One senior caregiver has already admitted to eight counts of ill treatment and negligence under the Mental Capacity Act that governs patients with dementia. The other three have denied their claims. Together, the four caregivers total twenty one offenses under the Mental Capacity Act and trial still continues for the three that denied the claims against them. Charges were made only after three contacts to the Care Quality Commission by a local whistle blower. Clearly, there is a problem with the regulation of these nursing homes and cases such as these could be occurring without notice. The fact that four nursing home ‘caregivers’ were able to get away with this amount of abuse is appalling, especially considering these patients could not properly express their anger and pain.

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