This is a long post but a very important one to me.
I have had many, many problems trying to ensure my mum has adequate care. She is nearly 85 and becoming quite confused and for the most part, I seem to be kept out of the loop. I am sharing this with all names removed and I haven’t mentioned which local authority and health board are responsible. After a lot of shouting and threatening to go public, I have an assurance that mum will be moved closer to me, into a care home where she will be properly looked after. I’m not holding my breath.
The following isn’t well written. It is as accurate a retelling of events as I can manage at the moment. I will add to it as and when I get more information.
If you are so inclined to share this, please do. We need to talk about how the care system is letting our parents and grandparents down.
Thursday 13th August 2015
I got a call from a carer at mum’s, asking me not to buy more paracetamol for her. I asked why and was told she had been prescribed co-dydramol for back pain as she fell the day before (Wednesday 12th). The doc suspected a fracture as she has osteoporosis but as keeping mobile and pain relief was the treatment whether there was a fracture or not, decided not to call an ambulance. I was shocked. Yet again, something had happened to mum that I hadn’t been told about. (Just two months earlier mum had an infected sore on her ear and was on antibiotics for that. No one had told me and I found out, like I usually do, by calling her and getting a half story, and then do some investigations myself.) At this point, the doctor had been out to mum’s twice. I spoke to mum on the phone and she sounded very sore and sorry for herself.
Friday 14th August 2015
I got another call, this time from an SHO at mum’s sheltered housing. Mum was still very unwell and the doctor had been called again. I got absolutely no information from the SHO or doctor and had to end up calling the surgery myself. The doc eventually got back to me to tell me mum had a UTI and had prescribed antibiotics. I decided to go up to see mum the next day.
I also discovered that mum had fallen on the Tuesday, not the Wednesday, if she had fallen at all. We were suspicious that she woke up in pain and explained it away by telling people she fell. She also told people she had fallen when she was out with me – I hadn’t seen mum in months.
Saturday August 15th 2015
I got a call from the carers’ HQ at 7:30am to tell me the doc cad been called out again as mum was really feeling very poorly. I delayed setting off, trying to get a hold of the wardens to find out what had happened. I eventually got in touch around 9:45. They had no idea that I was called so early and that mum was still ill. I asked them about the emergency doctor and the warden said she would go down to mum’s and check for me. She called me back after 15 minutes to tell me that NHS24 hadn’t been called at all but that she had called them out and would be around until 1:00pm. I got an email at 1:00 to tell me the doc hadn’t yet arrived and she was going home as her shift had ended. So my mum, nearly 85 years old, feeling ill and in a lot of pain, was left on her own, waiting for the doc to come.
I set off and because of the road I travelled, heard nothing until I got to Dundee where I called the emergency docs to find out what had happened. After a lot of too-ing and fro-ing, I got hold of a doctor, not the one who saw her, who told me that the emergency doc had been out and prescribed paracetamol. She had already had co-dydramol, another drug containing paracetamol, prescribed a few days earlier. I was worried sick. She had been left alone again, with double the paracetamol she should have had.
I called back the emergency doc and after a lot of shouting and promising that I would hold him personally responsible if another doctor AND the care manager wasn’t called out to see her immediately and an ambulance called, I was assured that both my requests would be honoured. After an hour or so I got a call from the doctor who had been to see her who told me that on top of her back pain and UTI, he didn’t like the noise her chest was making and had called an ambulance.
Yet again, mum had been left alone and when the ambulance eventually came, they took her away and left her front door unlocked.
Sunday August 16th 2015
I got to the hospital where I found mum looking exhausted. She didn’t recognise me and thought my 20 year old daughter was 14. She had forgotten that PJ had died and was generally confused. I spoke to the consultant who told me that her vitamin levels were low and she was a little anaemic. Her infections could explain her confusion, despite me telling him – as I’ve told everyone – that her confusion and memory problems have been getting worse and worse over the past year or so. She also had several vertebrae crumbling but couldn’t say whether this was acute or chronic.
After we left mum we went to her cottage to get her some more pyjamas and underwear. Dear God, what we found. There was dried-in old sick on the living room carpet, the toilet, kitchen, EVERYWHERE was filthy. I share this not to shame my poor mum, but to shame the people who were supposed to be looking after her. What on earth were the carers doing? I get absolutely no feedback from them or the warden about how mum is doing. How can a carer be in her house, see the mess and, even if it’s not her job to clean it, pass on how bad it was? I had already tried to get a cleaner in once a week, but she took one look and refused to go back.
I took the jammies etc up to mum who was tired and surprised to see me.
Monday August 17th 2015
We made arrangement to see mum’s care manager and her boss at the cottage around 11am. We found 60 bags of crisps that were out of date, 9 9-roll packets of loo roll in her shower (she obviously never used the shower), several bags of chocolate eclaire sweets and more sweets and biscuits than you could shake a stick at. We also found a cupboard full of out-of-date drugs which we took to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
When they arrived, both women were shocked at the state my mum was living in and said that they wholeheartedly agreed that mum couldn’t cope on her own. They were very clear on that.
The care manager said she’d go and see mum in hospital the next day.
I visited mum in the evening. She was tired and confused and still in pain. I was told that the medical staff wanted to talk to me and I eventually saw a junior doctor who hadn’t seen my mum and wasn’t up to date with her situation.
Tuesday August 18th 2015
I visited mum around 11:30 am. When I got to her room, she was sitting in her chair, asleep, with half a chocolate bourbon in her mouth. Just as well I turned up or she could have choked.
I spoke to her consultant who said that medically, there was no reason to keep her in and that her care manager, who had visited her earlier, was happy for her to go home. The same care manager who said only the previous day that it was obvious that she wasn’t able to cope on her own. I showed the doctor and nurses the photographs I had taken at her cottage and they were genuinely shocked. They had no idea about the state of her house – even though I told them how uncapable she was two days previously. Not only that, the consultant said he was confident that she was competent to live on her own and make her own decisions. He told me, as did the two social workers I spoke to previously, that even if she was found to be incompetent, her previously stated wishes (to live in her own home) would have to be given top consideration. I have no idea why I bothered to get Power of Attorney.
Unsurprisingly, I was in tears. They wanted me to stay in Aberdeen to sort things out, but I had to get home. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and everything ached. There was also the expense of staying up for longer. In Aberdeen, unemployment rates are very low and most jobs are paid way more than the national average. I don’t think they “got” that I couldn’t afford to stay up any longer. Eventually, they said they would delay discharge until Thursday to give me a chance to get her house cleaned before she went home. Basically, I had a day. The consultant did say, however, that he would talk to mum’s doctors to ask them to keep me informed of all mum’s treatments.
I managed to get a cleaning company to agree to come in on Wednesday – 10 man hours of cleaning to get it habitable. I called to talk to mum’s care manager and as she wasn’t available, managed to speak to her boss. I was very, very forceful about how angry I was about the whole shambles. How mum had been let down by the system time and time again. I threatened to go public. Later that day, the care manager called me to say that they would, at long last, set the wheels in motion to get mum moved down to a care home near me. Because they have at long last agreed to helping me get mum down to a care home beside me, I haven’t given any names. If they start back-tracking AGAIN, I will name names.
Mum tells me every time I see her that she wants to be closer to me. The care people say that she tells them she doesn’t want to lose her independence.
Mum is unsteady on her feet and is unable to co-ordinate using a stick. She is also partially sighted and has hearing problems and isn’t safe going out on her own. I discovered at least one occasion when she went up to the village shops on her own.
The hospital say the care manager was happy for mum to go home on her own with the same care package as always. The social workers say that they were under pressure from the hospital to say she was capable.
When the more senior social worker told me they were under a lot of pressure and that it wasn’t easy for them, I admit to telling them that was their job. She told me, yes it was, in conjunction with the family. I am the only family mum has and have loads of my own health issues. I asked what would happen if I wasn’t there. They would have to take over, they said, but I was there and implied that I should be doing my bit.
Mum had told her carer that I held all her money and didn’t give her any so she couldn’t arrord to go up and play the bingo in the day room. I ask mum regularly if she needs me to send up any cash and she always says no.
20/08/2015 Just spoke to mum’s sheltered housing warden who had no idea mum would be home today. She has kindly agreed to get in some bread and milk for her and offered to defrost the freezer on Monday.