A daughter says no-shows by in-home carers mean her 75-year-old mother, who has dementia and is incontinent, could spend up to 24 hours in a soiled diaper unless she drops everything to help.
Bridget Davey, who also has a full-time job and two children, says the situation has left her “burnt out” and believing she is unable to leave town, as well as having to consider moving her mother into a care facility.
The Rotorua woman’s mother was eligible for 14 hours per week of publicly funded in-home care to help her shower, get changed and take medication.
But Davey claims there have been “increasing” occasions when her mother has been left without a carer due to care provider Visionwest Home Healthcare having no carers available.
She told the Rotorua Daily Post that without scheduled care appointments, her mother could be “in the same soiled diaper” for up to 24 hours.
Visionwest said it was having staff shortages which created “significant pressure”, particularly when support workers were sick. However, it was “working hard” to recruit more support workers and was speaking with Davey’s family to address their concerns.
Davey said her parents, who she did not want to name for privacy reasons, lived in Rotorua in the home where they raised their family.
Both had dementia and received Visionwest in-home care.
Davey said her mother’s care allowed her to continue living at home. Visionwest had provided two hours of care per day for the past two years.
She claims, however, there have been “inconsistencies”, with her care since before Christmas.
On weekdays, Davey’s mother should have a morning, midday and evening visit, and on the weekend, a morning and evening visit.
A carer would help her mother shower and dress and check she has taken her medication in the morning, then get ready for bed in the evening.
Davey claims recently there has been an “increasing” number of times when Visionwest had told her it was unable to provide care for her mother, including on Thursday, June 8, and Saturday, June 10.
She said she was out of town that Saturday when she got a call at 7.30pm “saying they didn’t have anyone to go in and do mum’s cares”.
“And then the next morning, they also didn’t have anyone to do mum’s cares,” Davey claims
“So I ended up … going up to mum and dad’s, having to shower mum because she’d been fecally incontinent.”
Bridget Davey has been helping her mother shower and change when carers do not show up. Photo / Andrew Warner
Davey claims scheduled care appointments were also missed on June 18 and June 22.
“I had to leave my daughter’s school disco so that I could go up and change my mum.”
Davey said there was a day last year when a carer did not turn up and her mother had fallen and ended up in hospital.
Other issues included the evening carer showing up at 3pm or carers showing up too late in the morning, which affected other plans, Davey said.
Davey said her father became “distressed” when carers did not show up.
“I’m burnt out and we’re now considering having to put mum into a rest home.
“I feel as though I can’t take a break because if I go away, who’s there to care for my mum and dad?”
In Davey’s view, Visionwest did not have a “system of prioritisation” because it seemed it was not aware both parents received care and she believed her mother had a “higher priority” than her father.
On several occasions, her father’s carer did the care for her mother, she believes.
Davey said she had complained verbally to Visionwest “at least four if not five” times this year without a response.
On June 22, she submitted a complaint via its website. She said she heard back from the company on June 28.
Visionwest Home Healthcare head of health and community services Murray Penman said the company could not comment publicly on clients’ support for confidentiality and privacy reasons.
However, he confirmed it was speaking with the family to address their concerns and help them with support and solutions.
Penman said Visionwest was having general staffing shortages, similar to most health providers in New Zealand.
“In some localities, these shortages are more pronounced than in others and create significant pressure when trying to fill gaps, particularly when support workers are unwell, often without notice.
“Visionwest is working hard to recruit additional support workers with a focus on areas under the greatest pressure.”
Penman said all complaints and subsequent feedback were recorded and monitored as per its complaints policy. Training on the policy ensured all staff had a standard approach.
Visionwest’s policy and practice was to complete an assessment to identify the level of need for each client.
“This enables us to quickly identify who is most at risk if a visit cannot be completed for any reason, such as staff illness or absence.
The team also looked at the type of support originally scheduled, as some categories were more urgent than others. Diabetes management must always be delivered on time, for example, he said.
“The first step that we undertake when a support worker is unavailable is for Visionwest to notify the individual where we have an issue while, at the same time, attempting to find a relief carer who has the right level of skills to match the client’s individual needs.
“For people with very high needs which we do not have the capacity to meet we often work with the family to determine alternative care arrangements.”
Penman said Visionwest committed to working with new clients when and where it had the capacity to fulfil visits.
“Therefore, when we receive a client referral, we will only accept them according to support worker availability, locality, and client needs assessment.”
Penman said the company was committed to ensuring “consistent client satisfaction” and looked for opportunities to improve service quality.
It “consistently” reviewed its approaches to the employment market to find ways “to attract the right people” and regularly reviewed how it responded to complaints.
Megan Wilson is a health and general news reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post. She has been a journalist since 2021.
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