A private home care provider has apologised to a family for a catalogue of adult protection failures that put a 77-year-old woman with dementia at risk.

Nine complaints were upheld against Ayrshire based firm Constance Care, which describes itself as a ‘market leader’ in home and live-in care services.

Eileen Martin was moved her from her home in Troon to a sheltered housing complex in Giffnock, in August last year to be closer to her two daughters. While initial tests suggested dementia she was waiting for a formal diagnosis and was experiencing acute periods of mental confusion.

Four daily visits were arranged by the East Renfrewshire Council with the Kilmarnock-based firm but within a month, the grandmother-of-four's relatives say they became concerned that checks and crucial medication prompts were being missed.

It later transpired that care workers were falsifying records to say that visits had taken place. 

READ MORE: Covid leading to surge in dementia cases amid growing evidence of how the virus attacks the brain 

The situation came to a head in November when the family were unable to contact their mother and she was found outside that complex, cold and confused with a bag of odd items packed.

A carer - who had previously visited - found her outside but did not raise the alarm and the family don’t know how long she was outside.

All nine complaints lodged by the family were upheld by the Care Inspectorate involving adult protection, record keeping, care and treatment, privacy and dignity and healthcare.

HeraldScotland:

Mrs Martin's daughter Lynn Alexander, said: “Mum moved to the housing complex on August 6 and probably by September there was missed medication, there was visits being missed.

“We kept speaking to the social worker and speaking to the company, then in October there was another missed medication.

“The acute point was in November when a carer found her outside. Mum was one of their clients but they were going to see someone else but they didn’t call in their concern.

“She wasn’t answering her phone so we knew that meant with someone who is 76 with dementia she must be outside.

“I went over and she had a wee bag packed with odd items and she was really, really confused. We don’t know how long she was there. I looked in her care book and it had a visit written down that had not taken place.

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“They weren’t following adult protection procedures and they were writing records in books that hadn’t taken place saying they had given her medication that they hadn’t given her.

“Social work were straight in there after that.

The firm was given a deadline for improvements including ensuring “that all staff are aware of and exercise their responsibility to protect people from harm”.

Failings were also identified with the support given at mealtimes and Constance Care was told to improve the training of carers to ensure “adequate time and assistance” is given to support people at each visit.

A spokesman for Constance Care said: “Constance Care takes all complaints seriously and seeks to use each as an opportunity to improve the services it provides. 

“Further to this complaint, we have agreed an action plan with the Care Inspectorate and are also working with the local authority to review service user satisfaction and to implement improvements. 

“We apologise to Mrs Martin and her family for the poor service she received in this instance, which fell below our usual standards.”

A spokesman for the Care Inspectorate added:  “The Care Inspectorate received a complaint about Constance Care East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire in December 2020.

“Having considered the information given to us carefully we have upheld the complaint, the outcome of which has been published on our website.”

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The family say they wanted to speak out to highlight the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on those with dementia. There is strong evidence it has led to an acceleration of symptoms due a drop in supports and day centre closures as well as care home visiting bans. More people with the disease have died while many others have faced delays in being diagnosed.

Mrs Alexander, who lives in Glasgow and is a secondary school teacher, says a delay in referring her for an assessment was only acted on when she mismanaged her heart medication, resulting in her being hospitalised due to an accidental. 

She was eventually referred to a memory clinic in February 2020 but that appointment did not take place until June after her family intervened.

It was October before Mrs Martin, who has another daughter Kate, was diagnosed with vascular dementia. The family say her health declined rapidly in the sheltered housing complex, attributing this to a lack of stimulation and activities for residents. She is now in a care home.

“I cannot stress enough, my mother was a really fit lady before the pandemic. She was in four activities a week, walking eight miles a week and now she shuffles around and is not allowed outside.

“It’s just been an absolutely horrendous year.”