'My gran screamed in pain through the night and care staff never told us'

Sonia Dixon, whose gran died 'in pain' after health issues were neglected by care staff, warns sector needs vital change.

A great-gran who died after being ‘neglected and in pain’ in a care home has prompted her granddaughter to call for change in the sector.

Doreen Tilly died aged 101 after she was removed from Woodside Court care home in Glenrothes, Fife in February 2021 to live with family and died three months later.

Her great-granddaughter Sonia Dixon complained to the Care Inspectorate that Doreen’s bowel issues were ignored and staff never made mention of Doreen’s cries for help.

Sonia, a former care worker herself, had her complaint against Doreen’s care home upheld – with the report finding the woman’s needs were “not being sufficiently monitored”, which “impacted negatively on her safety and wellbeing”.

It comes as new figures show complaints against care homes in Scotland have nearly doubled in the last decade, with care homes facing a mounting staffing crisis.

Sonia Dixon

Sonia said: “She had chronic constipation and hadn’t been for a bowel movement for two weeks when we had brought her home. She was in more pain as each day went by and shouting all through the night.

“It wasn’t until we got my nan out that we knew exactly what happened during Covid. The care home never told us. If they gave us the full story we could have been better prepared.

“We’re angry, disappointed and let down. No one apologised or acknowledged it.

“Now we’ve just got to move on, knowing she was neglected and in pain.

“The system needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom, training, the ratio of staff to residents.”

Complaints about care services reached a ten-year high last year – with complaints about homes for older people making up more than two fifths of them.

The latest report from the Care Inspectorate showed it received a total of 5,910 complaints in 2022-23 – an increase of 85% from the 3,185 complaints received in 2012-13.

Overall, a total of 10,908 complaints about care homes for older people were received during this time, the report noted.

Various doctors came to assess Doreen while she was living with Sonia but she passed away in May 2021.

Sonia took Noreen out of the care home in 2021

Sonia took her concerns to the Care Inspectorate and filed complaints about Doreen’s care.

After a full investigation, these were upheld. A rarity, as on average only about 12% of complaints to the independent scrutiny body are upheld.

They found there was insufficient evidence to show staff were monitoring Doreen’s healthcare needs. Fluid monitoring was poor – on one occasion only 370 millilitres of fluid was provided for an entire day.

Records show Doreen had just one bowel movement over a 32-day period. But staff did not take any further steps to establish why she was in pain.

Sonia said: “There are lovely carers who did their best but the care has been overall poor.

“She had a good care team [at my home]. It was fine, but it was too late. She was too far gone.

“I don’t want to be a part of a system I can’t make positive changes in.

“I’m scared for the next generation who will need care homes. I don’t want to be in the position my nan was put in.”

Scottish Care chief executive Donald Macaskill warned the sector is “losing around a third” of its staff every year.

He said: “At the heart of this we need to get to the stage where we properly reward and remunerate our frontline social care staff.

“Good care is relationship-based care, carers knowing the individual. Relationships are affected when you struggle to hold on to and recruit staff.

Care home staff did not pick up on Doreen's health issues while she lived there

“One of the sad consequences of the sector losing a third of its staff every year is organisations struggling to keep people trained and up to date.

“There is a direct relationship between the care someone receives, the continuity of staff and the ability to recruit and retain staff.

“Sadly, despite the amazing efforts of frontline staff, we will continue to see a rise in complaints relating to a decrease in quality of care.”

A spokesperson for Woodside Court said: “Our priority is to deliver the best possible care for each Resident we serve, and we deeply regret and apologise for the shortcomings in care which occurred in this historic incident, and which do not reflect the high standards of compassionate and kind care we hold ourselves to.

“Doreen was a beloved member of our home community for six years, and our thoughts and sympathies remain with her family.

“Under new management, we have taken a number of steps at the home in the past two and a half years, including strengthening our quality assurance monitoring system, which was praised by the Care Inspectorate at their most recent review of our home.”

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