In the wake of a highly publicized case of elderly abuse, there is a call for activities at this island’s 64 nursing homes to be more closely monitored.
Leading the call is outspoken pastor and Government senator David Durant, who wants Government to make it mandatory for nursing homes to be equipped with surveillance cameras.
Durant, who is also chairman of the National Assistance Board (NAB), issued the call yesterday, a day after a disturbing video went viral of an elderly resident suffering abuse at the hands of her caregiver at the Roseville Home For The Elderly in Christ Church.
Since then, Durant said that he has been bombarded with reports of elderly patients being ill treated in one form or another by caregivers, including not being served nutritious meals.
The NAB Chairman has pledged to personally investigate the reports, but he believes cameras would open the doors to better policing of the homes by the authorities.
“I am going to recommend that we legislate that all nursing homes must install cameras on a 24/7 basis where we will be able to monitor these kind of situations on a very regular basis.
“I think the installation of cameras will really help authorities to be able to review and check periodically on the history of what the cameras have taken,” Durant told Barbados TODAY.
Police have launched an investigation into the disturbing video, which shows caregiver Arielle King kicking 84-year-old Jasmine Hall, in addition to striking her in the head with a shoe and verbally abusing her.
This after the owner of the Christ Church home, Pamela Hill, said she immediately reported the matter to them as soon as it was brought to her attention.
Hill, who said she also contacted other relevant authorities, has also fired the caregiver, as well as a cook, who took no action to protect the elderly victim.
Yesterday, President of the Barbados Elderly Care Association (BECA) Maureen Ward spoke out against the abuse.
She also echoed Durant’s call for closer scrutiny of the island’s nursing homes, saying her association was preparing to formally write to the Ministry of Health – which is the Government ministry responsible for the elderly care institutions – to ask that it be made law that cameras be installed in these facilities.
“I would not be against that. I have cameras at my nursing home, nuff of them and I want more. If we have to monitor, we have to monitor. As I said, you can’t see behind your back. We have to monitor what is going on in our nursing homes,” said Ward, who is the owner of Roy Wardeen Caring Home.
The experienced registered nurse and midwife of over 25 years has been operating her own elderly care facility for 13 years.
While terming the Roseville incident a “tragedy” and “a wake up call”, Ward was adamant that “it shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t happen again.
“I feel very strongly about this. I believe the full length of the law has to be extended to them [perpetrators of elderly abuse], because they showed no mercy,” said an upset Ward.
“If we didn’t see this video, we would not have known that it had taken place, and, I dare say, it is taking place, but we are not seeing it,” she said, adding, “it is possible that it goes on in the private, and the public places as well.
“You have people that once you are not there to watch them, you wouldn’t know what they will do. We have heard of incidents in hospitals and other areas,” she said, adding that it was “by the grace of God, we have been able to see this ”.
In view of the Roseville development, the 34 member BECA held an emergency meeting at which there was strong agreement that homeowners must take action to prevent their patients from being treated inhumanely.
Ward said, they intended to ensure that caregivers were fully vetted before they were hired to care for the elderly.
She acknowledged that for sometime, the association had been looking at setting up a database that would allow it to track the professional record of caregivers.
“We don’t want to, as Bajans would say, take bread out of people mouth. You don’t want to be charged for defamation of character or for making people feel victimized, but, on the other hand, we have to protect the elderly,” she told Barbados TODAY, pointing out that the majority of her members currently ask for police certificates of character when hiring.
The BECA president further acknowledged that there were some caregivers who practised “nursing home hopping” after being dismissed from for one reason or another.
“They go to another home, but they don’t improve their behaviour. They take the bad behaviour with them. It’s like some of them don’t see nursing as a calling. Nursing is more than a job. It used to be a noble profession with people with high morals and integrity. All of that going through the window,” Ward lamented.
In a brief statement, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) also strongly condemned the abuse of 84-year-old Hall, who was physically and verbally abused by her caregiver.
President Ed Bushell said, “BARP categorically condemns in the possible strongest terms this apparent misbehavior and urge the authorities to take whatever action is now available to them to deal appropriately with this matter.”
While praising Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett and the leadership of the NAB for their swift response to the incident, Bushell called for the “speedy passage of appropriate legislation which would enable the relevant authorities the power to act in the best interest of the elderly”.
However, the incident continues to generate strong public outrage, so much so that the owner of Roseville told Barbados TODAY both she and her staff continue to be on the receiving end of insults and threats.
“But I want everyone to know that because one person is guilty, it doesn’t mean everyone is guilty. Please stop calling Roseville and harassing us, and calling us names but we are not the guilty parties in this scenario,” she appealed this yesterday.
Police issued a release late tonight stating that the caregiver seen in the video abusing Hall, 37-year-old Arielle King, had been charged with unlawful assault.