Safeguarding Vulnerable Older Adults at risk – The implementation of a Link Nurse Practitioner (LNP) in Older Persons Services to educate staff and promote awareness
Vulnerable persons have a right to be protected against abuse and to have concerns regarding abusive experiences addressed. They have a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe (Health Service Executive) (HSE 2014b p 13).
Striving to provide a high quality, safe and supportive service to older adults in residential care is a consistent challenge and it is critically important as the old age dependency ratio in Ireland is expected to increase from 17.4% in 2012 to 36.3% in 2045 (Central Statistics Office CSO 2012). All residential care services, both public and private, are independently regulated by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) with a primary function to promote sustainable quality healthcare to safeguard older adults. Failure to achieve a minimum standard may result in failure to register as a service provider (HIQA 2015a). The catalyst for this organisational development (OD) project evolved when the minimum standard of staff training, as per HSE requirements, did not protect vulnerable older adults (VOA’s). The residential care facility managed by the author believed their safeguarding practices were adequate and within HSE policy when they received a report from the regulatory authority stating, Significant improvements were required, most notably in safeguarding practices ……inspectors were not satisfied that staff demonstrated adequate awareness or responded appropriately to possible signs of abuse (HIQA 2015c). This created a ripple of vulnerability throughout the service as identified in reflection one (Appendix One), and it attracted much speculation and media attention (Appendix Two). The existing system of two-year mandatory training sessions had created the perfect storm. The education had been implemented, but how it was interpreted by the employee beyond a tick box system of attendance was not evaluated. The implementation of a Link Nurse Practitioner (LNP) specifically trained in the protection VOA’s, is, therefore being introduced as an additional safeguard to enhance staff development in recognising and responding to elder abuse.