In September, I wrote about Sylvia, a 95 year old with mild dementia and a rare muscle cancer on her arm. At that point, she had effectively been bed-blocking in Hospital for 10 weeks and during that time her general state of health had drastically deteriorated. You can read all about it here.
After 12 weeks she was finally allowed to go home. It was agreed with the hospital that they would arrange transport for her. The Social Services had a Care Plan in place which was due to start at 5pm on the same day. We rang the hospital and were assured that she would be coming home but probably not until after 6pm. Her son, Jim, rang the carers to cancel the 5pm visit and was informed that they had been told that she would not be coming home until the following day!
Less than 5 minutes after ringing off, Jim received a phone call from the Patient Transport Ambulance driver saying that he had Sylvia on board and where should he go to drop her off! She eventually arrived home, in her hospital gown and two large plastic bags full of her belongings and prescribed medication and dressings for her arm. The hospital staff hadn't even bothered to dress her, even though we had left clean clothes with them for this purpose!
Whilst Jim was relieved to have finally got his mother home it soon become apparent just how far his mum had regressed whilst in hospital. She was unable to walk unaided, she was refusing to eat and very confused, thinking that she was still in hospital. She kept saying "I'll be glad when I get home".
Sylvia used to be very independent and physically fit for a 95 year old. Now, she couldn't even use the toilet without assistance. Her time in the "care" of the NHS had reduced her to an empty shell of a woman.
She had been prescribed health drinks by the hospital and at first it was a struggle to get her to drink them but slowly she started to improve and then we managed to persuade her to eat tiny amounts of baby food as well. As I write, some two months later, she can now eat softened "adult" food and continues to improve.
However, she is still extremely frail and completely dependent on Jim for all her daily needs. She still has the cancer on her arm and this is causing her a great amount of paid and distress. The arm is being dressed every other day by the district nurses and she has just gone into a nursing home to give Jim, who is 70, a much needed break.
He feels guilty about this but realises that, as his mother's main carer, he needs to care for himself as well. He was completely worn out after two months of non-stop 24 hour caring. The social services care package allows for up to three visits daily but he resented the intrusion and dropped this to just one visit a day to help get his mum up and out of bed. The rest, he says, he can do himself.
We don't know what the next step will be. Sylvia is in the care home for at least another three weeks and it may be that she will remain there, but only if she is happy to stay. Jim would rather have her at home, but, as an outsider looking in, I don't think he could cope in the long term - it is quite simply too exhausting for him.
He has made his feelings known to his GP practice and blames them for all of this situation. They have verbally apologised and stated that they felt putting her in hospital was for the best, at the time. They acknowledge now that they made a very big mistake and should never have stepped in. All they succeeded in doing was to hasten this poor old lady's end of life process and stolen the loving mother/son relationship that Jim and Sylvia had for the best part of 17 years sharing a home together.
My own feelings are still very much that there is a hidden agenda within the NHS to simply cast aside and "get rid of" old people. They believe that they are too much of a burden to maintain. Isn't it time to change this and put it right?
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