No! See, hear and speak if it is evil – A story and some tips about what to do and when!
How widespread is the lack of care for the elderly within the NHS and how long has it been going on? When and who is going to do anything about it? But best skip this one if for any reason you are feeling low.
My posts are usually cheerful but in the light of the scandal in the NHS in Staffordshire this post is about my mother. She had been poorly for sometime and six years ago went into a south London hospital for a routine operation and came out in a coffin three weeks later!
I’m told that I go on about her a bit, but I don’t care and she is still a source of inspiration for some of my poetry. Not only was she my mother but we had worked together for several years and, in later life, she had moved nearby. She was a good friend and if anything I say, alerts anyone to do something more about their loved ones in hospital – good!
In this hospital there was lack of co-ordination regarding her treatment, uncaring behaviour by some of the staff, who shouted at patients and made unkind remarks. This despite ‘mission statements’ claiming the patient was at the heart of the service and if one wanted to complain, it was almost impossible to establish who was in charge!
It was Easter time and unfortunately the surgeon who had planned the operation went away for a long weekend. The house doctor appeared unhappy with the plan. He and other medics discussed her case as though she wasn’t there. I had to tell them she had all her mental faculties and could answer their questions herself.
The name of a ‘key nurse’ was displayed but she had poor English and my mother did not know she had one! Suddenly a notice saying ‘liquids only’ was placed on her bed, without explanation. When I protested it took two days to get an appointment with the nutritionist who was completely unhelpful, when I complained again, she had been virtually starved for five days and had became depressed as a result!
The lead to her buzzer to call for help was too short to reach her in bed, she could not request a bedpan, ask to use the phone, or call to tell them when a demented male patient was visiting the ladies’ ward, a nightly occurrence. When I complained on her behalf about the man, the staff said they could do nothing to restrain him as it would bring complaints from his family.
My mother had all ‘her marbles’ and I took in family films on a portable DVD which perked her up a bit, she read ‘The Telegraph’ or ‘The Guardian’ and poetry until three days before she died and, of course, other members of the family were visiting too. When it was admitted she could have had solid food all along we took it in turns to take in something that she liked.
During all this time nurses had noisy ‘breaks’, in a room marked ‘private’ refusing any request to come out, on one occasion they were all admiring a colleagues new baby! Two people served patients their meals, some of whom could not reach them and as a result they were collected later uneaten. My advice would be to visit at lunch time and feed your loved ones yourself!
Luckily I discovered a group in the hospital called PALS (Patients Action and Liaison). They set up a formal meeting with the sister in charge to express my concerns and attended the meeting with me. She was still dismissive but I wish I had known about PALS earlier.
My mother’s original surgeon returned from holiday and we rushed down for pre-op tests, only to find that she was by now so weak that nothing could be done. He explained that this was due to a bug, pneumonia and/or weakness, no one could be sure. “It happens” he shrugged.
I borrowed a wonky wheelchair on the ward and took her down to see the world outside. I did not tell her it would be for the last time.
I ignored visiting hours, sat by her bed all night for the last three to look after her myself, donned rubber gloves, knew about bedpans, encountered the male intruder. I helped one of the few, really kind night nurses to change the bed, as we both sang my mother’s favourite jazz songs. Later when my mother and I were beyond words I wrote her a poem, she read it and smiled.
Finally I went home exhausted for a few hours, only to be called back because she did not ‘have long’. But apparently ‘routine’ included taking blood samples and tests in the the last minutes of her life! When I questioned the need for this, I was told to keep quiet because she would still be able to hear. I remember whispering back, “Well at least she’ll know I’m still fighting her corner”. One of my sons was with me and he went off to see is we could get all this stopped. I gave her a last cuddle and my son arrived back in time to say goodbye and hold her hand.
As we packed her things a man appeared to lengthen the lead to her buzzer!
Yes, I complained and listed my concerns. The reply came six months later, telling me nothing new, but that ‘staff training’ related to ‘dying with dignity’ would be undertaken. I wrote to my MP to be told they would investigate! A letter came later and naturally the hospital denied any lack of care or mismanagement.