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Elderly locked up at nursing home
The Asahi Shimbun

The facility snubs orders not to confine residents, and gets a dubious `donation' from one.

ONISHI, Gunma Prefecture--Despite repeated warnings, a nursing home here continues to lock elderly residents in their rooms or strap them to wheelchairs to ease the workload of staff, sources said Friday.

Three inspections have shown the practice continues. But local authorities have done little except make Mitake Special Nursing Home for the Elderly return a 2-million-yen ``donation'' from one of its senile residents, sources said.

Confining the residents violates rules governing nursing home operations. Since December, the prefectural government has thrice ordered Mitake Nursing Home, which is run by social welfare group Ryuhokai, to end the practice.

The warnings appear to have only drawn an apology from the nursing home director.

``Though we received orders from the prefectural government, ... our knowledge on physical restraint was insufficient,'' director Shuya Haketa said. ``I apologize to the people concerned.

``The acceptance of the donation was also inappropriate,'' he added. ``Our in-house check system did not work well.''

Ikuko Honma, head of a citizens group for the improvement of nursing homes, said Mitake is not alone in the restraining practice.

``I think that the case of the Mitake home is just the tip of the iceberg,'' she said. ``We need to immediately protect the rights of the elderly in nursing homes with measures such as ombudsmen and mandatory disclosure of information.''

Nursing homes are not allowed to restrain residents except for safety reasons, according to central government rules. When restraining residents is necessary, homes must log the restriction method, time and the reason.

When Gunma prefectural officials visited the Mitake home in December for a regular inspection, they found staff had physically restrained elderly clients, including locking one in a room. The resident apparently had a habit of wandering the halls without permission.

Officials ordered the nursing home to stop restraining residents, and returned for a surprise inspection in March.

They caught staff again restricting residents, this time strapping some to wheelchairs with belts. Officials repeated the order.

In both instances, nursing-home staff had not recorded the incidents of confinement as required by law. They also failed to give sound verbal reasons for the confinement.

From March, prefectural officials continued to receive information that elderly residents were being physically restrained at the nursing home.

They made another surprise inspection in September and found at least three elderly residents restrained. Again, there were no records.

Officials ordered nursing home director Haketa to come to the prefectural government office, where he received yet another order for his facility to stop restraining residents, sources said.

During their March inspection, officials also learned the nursing home received a dubious ``donation'' of 2 million yen in September last year from a bed-ridden elderly resident.

The man was suffering from serious senile dementia. His wife also suffered dementia and lived at the Mitake home. They had no children.

The money was listed as a donation under the man's name. But the donor application was allegedly filled out by his wife's younger sister. The 2 million yen was drawn from the man's bank account by a nursing home staffer who was in charge of keeping his savings passbook and seal, sources said.

Given the man's condition, he could not have used his own judgment to make the donation, sources said.

The prefectural government ordered Mitake Nursing Home to return the money. It was at least one order, sources said, the home obeyed.(IHT/Asahi: October 16,2004) (10/16)


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