Published Monday, 05 March 2012
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The commission's investigative report into the rights of the elderly has found that many homes are not complying with human rights.
NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Professor Michael O'Flaherty, said: "We identify many practices that raise human rights concerns such as toileting regimes that are built around institutional convenience rather than the needs of residents and that oblige people to use incontinence pads.
"We raise concerns about lack of adequate access to liquids and of 17-hour gaps between the serving of dinner and breakfast."
The report also raises concern around the use of restraint and notes a "worryingly inconsistent" practice used by GPs to review residents' medication regimes.
Nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care and it is thought the rise in available nursing packages is indicative of the growing health needs of older people receiving long-term care.
An increasing number of elderly people in Northern Ireland are cared for in nursing homes, and it is predicted that by 2047 the number of people aged 65 and over in homes will have doubled.
Prof O'Flaherty added that staff who "do a first rate job" become frustrated that they do not have enough time to spend with residents to give them further care and attention.
The commission is calling for Executive implement the human rights recommendations made in the In Defence of Dignity report.
It states that current nursing home regulations should be amended to protect residents' human rights and the homes should be provided with guidance on how to apply human rights standards to everyday care.
"If they are implemented they will go a long way to safeguarding the dignity of our older people in nursing homes," added Prof O'Flaherty.
Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, said it is vital to safeguard the needs of the elderly.
"Older People in nursing care are among the most vulnerable in our society; many nursing home residents live with dementia and have other high support needs.
"For older people, with or without the support of a family, their feelings of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. High-quality nursing care must ensure residents feel understood, cared for, and able to contribute as fully as they are able.
"The real lives of older people who live in nursing care needs to be better understood, their views and preferences respected, and their human rights upheld," she added.
Independent Health Care Providers, the body which represents providers, said it condemns poor practice but that building standards costs money.
A statement read: "We unreservedly condemn poor practice and have a strong Code of Conduct which we expect all members to comply with.
"The care of an increasingly ageing population is one of the biggest challenges that society faces. It is imperative that older people are treated with dignity, love and respect and that their rights are upheld at all times.
"Fundamental to the debate is that in order to further build resources and standards in care homes it will be necessary to have adequate funding."