As the independent Older People’s Commissioner for Wales my role is to protect and promote the rights of older people. This is embedded throughout all my work and priorities – from tackling ageism, to preventing abuse, to enabling people to age well. At times in our lives it can be particularly important that we know our rights – and one of these times is when we, or someone we love, moves into a care home. 

That’s why, working with expert organisations and older people, I have just published two new guides on the rights of older people living in care homes. These are being sent to all care homes in Wales as well as being distributed more widely. 

We all have rights and we do not lose these when we move into a care home. Knowing our rights will help us, and anyone assisting us, get the information we need when choosing and moving into a care home. Once living there, knowing our rights can help to ensure that we can do the things that matter to us, and see the people who are important to us. Clarity about rights helps everyone in a care home – the people living there and the people working there. 

The experience of the pandemic demonstrated how important it is to ensure that older people’s rights are understood and upheld. Although there were differences in the decisions and management of the response to the pandemic in the four nations of the UK, the experience for older people in care homes was very similar. I am therefore working with colleagues across the UK on a programme of work to improve the rights of older people in care homes through improving policy, practice and culture. 

I know, from personal experience, how important good quality care homes are to older people, their families and friends. They are also a vital part of the wider health and care system, and there needs to be greater recognition of this, and greater recognition of the skilled and vital workforce too.  

Alongside this, there also needs to be greater recognition that upholding people’s rights is also a key feature of high-quality care, which is why improving awareness and understanding of people’s rights – both within the care home sector and amongst wider society – is crucial.  

Heléna Herklots CBE 

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales