The case of a 68-year-old man who was allegedly slapped in the face and strapped to his wheelchair before dying in a nursing home in northeastern China has reignited concerns over the vulnerability of senior citizens in long-term care facilities.
The man, surnamed Li, was having difficulty walking and was sent to the nursing home in Shenyang, Liaoning province, about seven weeks ago and died on June 30, from unknown causes, Star Video under Changsha Television reported on Tuesday.
Surveillance footage later allegedly revealed that his carer had been abusing him in the lead up to his death, including slapping him in the face, pushing his head, and tying him up in his wheelchair; his son, who was only identified by his surname Li, claimed in the report.
“They texted me in the early morning saying my father stopped breathing. I was really shocked, because just a couple of days before they took my father to participate in an activity, and he looked very well,” the son said. His father didn’t have any chronic diseases, he added.
Footage released by the son appeared to show Li being beaten by his carer on several occasions while in his bed and in his wheelchair. He was also seen strapping Li to the chair to keep him restrained.
It’s unclear if the alleged abuse is linked to Li’s death, and the carer is still working as the nursing home said it did not consider there to be any issues with the carer’s behaviour.
The nursing home manager, surnamed Song, denied that Li was beaten or abused. “The carer might just have made some big moves, or exaggerated in the language when urging him to eat and so on,” he said.
Just a day earlier, another nursing home in Shanghai was alleged to have given double the recommended dose of a medication that was expired to a female resident in her 80s, local video news app Kankanews reported.
The woman, who had suffered a stroke, was supposed to take a 4mg antihypertensive pill regularly but her family discovered she was being given an 8mg pill instead, which according to the package expired in July last year.
“We don’t know how long she has been given this. The nursing home doesn’t have an idea either,” the woman’s son said.
She was under medical observation at present, the report said.
Elder abuse at nursing homes and long-term care facilities is a global issue. According to WHO, two in three staff at such institutions reported that they have committed abuse in the past year.
In China, where the elderly population has grown rapidly, the quantity and quality of nursing home care have not kept pace with demand.
By last year, there were 264 million people aged 60 years or older in the country, which accounted for 18.4 per cent of the entire Chinese population, official data showed. About 40 million of these people had some degree of disability, according to the National Health Commission.
Chinese nursing care homes had about 8.3 million beds as of the end of last year, meaning that there were only three beds for every 100 elderly people.
The industry is also facing an acute shortage of professional carers. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said in March last year that there were only 370,000 workers at nursing homes around China, meaning that, on average, one person was taking care of nearly 10 people. Just 200,000 of them had relevant qualifications.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.