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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards causing delays for bereaved families of dementia care residents

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Many relatives of people with dementia who pass away in care homes are facing long delays before they can hold a funeral, the Independent has reported. The delays are being caused by new Government regulations linked to the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS).

DoLS regulations

These safeguards ensure that vulnerable people with dementia are cared for in a way that does not inappropriately limit their freedom, and are only restricted when their own interests require it. 

However, when those cared for under DoLS pass away, they are legally considered to have died ‘in state detention’, and therefore an inquest is required to determine the cause of death. These inquests can often take weeks or months to complete, causing distress and frustration for families waiting to hold a funeral. Most relatives are unaware of these rules, and feel that an inquest is unnecessary when the cause of death is clear.

Increasing use of DoLS

The increase in use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in care homes is due to last year’s legal change in the threshold of what is considered deprivation of liberty in care. The lower threshold has resulted in a large increase in the number of care home residents being cared for under the safeguard. According to The Health and Social Care Information Centre there has been 113,000 DoLS applications this year, ten times more than last year, most of which are for people with dementia. A huge number of families could therefore face this situation in the future. 

System needing review

George McNamara from the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We do hear of cases where families face additional distress because of the mandatory coroner’s inquest following the death of a relative with a DoLS in place. DoLS are important for people with dementia to make sure they are not being wrongly deprived of liberty but the current system is complicated and there is lack of awareness about the process. This needs urgent review.” 

Our CEO, Fiona Lowry, made the following comment on The Independent’s report: “It is sad to hear that the complicated existing DoLS system is making a terribly sad time worse for families who have lost loved ones. At The Good Care Group, our whole philosophy and approach is designed to protect the personal liberty and wellbeing of those who need care. By caring for them within their own home, people with dementia can enjoy greater liberty and higher quality of life for longer. Our carers are all fully trained to understand dementia and apply person-centred techniques to reduce problematic behaviours, ensuring your loved one stays safer and happier in their own home.”

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