CARE OF THE ELDERLY

Madrid retirement home resident dead for 12 hours without being noticed

Staffing levels had been criticized by families of elderly patients at state-run institution in Alcorcón

The retirement home in Alcorcón, close to Madrid.
The retirement home in Alcorcón, close to Madrid.Paula Villar

An 82-year-old man was found dead on a bench on Sunday morning in the gardens of a retirement home in a Madrid satellite town. He had not attended dinner on Saturday evening or slept in his room, but neither his family nor the police were notified about the disappearance by staff.

The regional government of Madrid, which is run by the conservative Popular Party (PP), has opened an investigation into the matter, while the left-leaning anti-austerity party Podemos has called for the immediate resignation of the director of the center and for the regional head of Social and Family policy, Carlos Izquierdo, to appear before the regional assembly.

First reports suggest that the resident was playing dominoes on Saturday afternoon in the gardens of the care home, in the Madrid town of Alcorcón. Before dinner, which normally takes place at 8.45pm, he left the gardens to smoke a cigarette and take a small walk, as was his custom.

Another resident informed staff that the man had not appeared for dinner. They did not consider the absence important, as the resident in question often ate a snack in the cafeteria before going to bed. They did not inform the night team that he had not appeared.

Residents’ families have  highlighted the home’s “serious deficiencies,” among them a lack of staff

When night staff entered the man’s room and found him absent, they did not inform his family or the authorities, assuming that he was staying with relatives during the Easter vacation.

He was eventually found on Sunday morning on a bench in the gardens of the home after relatives had come to see him and raised the alarm that he appeared to be missing.

A post-mortem will be carried out, but all indications are that he died on Saturday evening.

The state-run care home was opened 25 years ago and has 220 residents, the majority requiring full-time care. A further 55 people attend the center on a daily basis. The man who died was reported as being mobile and able to look after himself.

Podemos called attention to the lack of staff at the Alcorcón care home, saying that residents were not being properly looked after.

In September 2016, the families of some 50 residents in the home created a platform to highlight its “serious deficiencies,” among them a lack of staff. The families say that between 18 and 22 people work each shift, meaning they must look after up to 14 residents each.

“There is no way they can look after them properly, when the law states that the maximum per carer is five people,” said Podemos spokesman Luis de Miguel. He pointed out that on one day in January, patients on an entire floor of the home were still in bed and undressed at 1pm.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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