Abuse of the elderly noticed by 93% of respondents to Valvira’s questionnaire, which also revealed shortcomings in carrying out in-house control and duty to notify
For publication on 24 May 2016 at 12 noon
Valvira has detected abuse of the elderly in social welfare units providing 24-hour care. No less than 7,406 employees working in such units had responded to Valvira’s questionnaire within the deadline. The questionnaire was aimed both at public and private service providers.
Majority of respondents had noticed abuse
The majority (93%) of respondents to the questionnaire had noticed some kind of abuse. Situations of abuse noticed by employees varied within the same unit. Whereas one employee had noticed harsh treatment in care on a daily basis, another had never noticed such treatment.
The documentation shows that residents’ rights to good treatment were not secured in all units. Of the respondents, 25% had noticed that ill-mannered, inappropriate or child-like language was used daily, weekly or monthly. According to 20% of the respondents, bossiness, punishment or criticism appeared just as frequently.
Of the employees responding to the questionnaire, 84% felt that their training gave them sufficient capability to identify and prevent abuse, and 55% said that they knew the applicable ethical guidelines in the sector very well.
Pressure of time and shortage of resources increase risk of abuse
It seems that growing pressure of time and shortage of human resources increase the risk of abuse. If employees feel there is not enough permanent staff, there are clearly (10-15%) more situations of abuse than if there is felt to be an adequate number of staff
It is usually another employee (73% of responses) and another customer (54% of responses) who are called an abuser. In 29% of responses, only the employee was called an abuser.
Instructions or operating model make it easier to intervene in abuse –however, units have shortcomings in in-house control and in carrying out their duty to notify
More than half (58%) of the respondents to the questionnaire were of the opinion that a unit always intervenes in incidents of abuse whenever they are noticed. Where units have developed an operating model or instructions to deal with situations of abuse, intervention would seem to be clearly more effective. In such cases, 74% of respondents reported that abuse is always intervened in. However, 56% of respondents stated that the unit has no operating model or instructions to intervene in situations of abuse, or that the respondent is not aware of such.
The in-house control plan of each unit must state how the appropriate treatment of customers is ensured and what the procedure is in the event of situations of abuse. Almost half (48%) of the respondents were not aware of an in-house control plan or whether it included measures/instructions on how to prevent abuse. An in-house control plan, including instructions dealing with abuse, was more often found in units in the private sector than those in the public sector. The supervisory authority has required units operating under a licence (units in the private sector) to have an in-house control plan since 2012, whereas units in the public sector have been required to have a similar plan only since 2015.
Many employees emphasised the role of the supervisor and management. If a unit has an atmosphere of openness and confidence, and employees know that there is immediate intervention in incidents of abuse, they have the courage to report abuse to their supervisor and to intervene in it themselves.
Employees in the social welfare sector have had a duty to notify since 1 January 2016: a social welfare professional must notify those responsible for operations immediately if he or she notices irregularities or obvious threats of irregularity to the customer in implementing social welfare. According to just over a third (36%) of the respondents, the duty to notify had been discussed in units. Almost half (43%) of respondents were either unable to say or did not know about the duty to notify.
Besides in-house control and the duty to notify, shortcomings were also widely noticed in, among other things, recognising abuse and intervention in such situations. The supervisory authorities use information guidance, among other measures, to draw the attention of service providers and employees in the field to the shortcomings that have arisen. Supervisory measures will focus on those units where questionnaire responses indicate that serious abuse has been shown to exist.
For more information:
Elina Uusitalo, Senior Officer
tel. +358 29 5209 334