Q: When I visited an elderly friend in the nursing home where she has been since pre covid she was very distressed and said she wants to leave but is kept locked in. She claims staff say she cannot leave because of a ‘DOLS’, but she does not understand what that is. The staff would not talk to me about it due to data protection. Her son has died since she went into the home. How can I help her?
A: DoLS stands for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. These legally imposed safeguards aim to ensure people in care homes, hospitals and supported living are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom. They apply to vulnerable people aged 18 or over who have a mental health impairment, including dementia, which is significant enough to result in them lacking the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care, accommodation, or treatment.
The main purpose of DoLS is to provide the person with a representative to ensure their best interests are being upheld and to provide a mechanism for Deprivation of Liberty to be legally authorised, regularly reviewed and monitored. Key elements often include an obligation to live in a particular place, to be subject to constant monitoring and control, to only be allowed out with certain levels of supervision and to be unable to move away without permission.
If your neighbour has been made subject to a DoLS she should have been appointed a representative/advocate and given copies of the paperwork setting out why the DoLS are necessary. Although it is not always explained to people in her position, she has the right, at no cost to her and with the benefit of free legal representation, to challenge the DoLS in court. DoLS are however complex, so your neighbour should seek advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.
Article June 2021
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