It’s tough to see your mum develop dementia.
My mum was an intelligent, sociable person, who had married a tall, handsome Yorkshire man, and had enjoyed her work as a medical receptionist.
But when Mum was 86, we noticed she was struggling to remember things. Then one evening her speech suddenly became disjointed. We sent for the ambulance.
Mum's hospital experience
Mum had experienced a transient ischaemic attack – or ‘mini stroke’. This happens when there is a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain.
After six weeks in hospital, we were told Mum was being sent home with a care plan: carers would make four brief visits a day to help her. My sister and I couldn’t believe that they had made this decision. The hospital staff had been asking us, ‘How is your mother compared with how she was before?’ and we had told them, ‘Considerably worse.’ She was delusional and confused and kept imagining she was back at work. Sometimes she thought she was in prison.
In her more lucid moments, Mum said that staff had told her she shouldn’t be there. At one point, she had been presented with a letter threatening legal action if she did not vacate her bed, with no friend of family member present.
We tried to offer a solution
My sister and I were given what had been called a ‘consultation’ with a social worker and a doctor, but in fact it was more of a ‘presentation’ – they told us what was going to happen. We asked if they would mind if we had some input, but it was apparent they weren’t expecting us to say anything. This was because they had decided Mum had the mental capacity to make this decision for herself. I subsequently discovered that this was why the hospital didn’t give us a say in her care plan.
We called the social worker with our concerns. We expressed our opinion that it was unsafe to send Mum home in her present state, and suggested instead that she could be moved to the local community hospital, only a couple of hundred metres from her own front door. We had also heard about reablement and thought that this would have allowed Mum a gradual and managed return to independence. The social worker said there would have to be a meeting of all the functions to consider what to do.
The following day, the doctor called me to say Mum would indeed be sent to the community hospital, and that a meeting would not be necessary – we were overjoyed. However, our relief was short-lived: the next day my sister was told there was no such plan.
Back to square one
Mum was sent home against our better judgement, despite us being the people who knew her best.
We tried to make the best of her discharge. We went round to see her at her house as often as we could. So did a cousin who was a nurse, and friends and neighbours. Mum also had the support visits from carers, but inevitably sometimes she was alone.
After four days I had a text from my brother saying that he had an alarming phone call with Mum. We rushed round to her house and found her slumped in a chair. She was unwell with a high temperature and making no sense. So, four days after she had been discharged, she went back into hospital as an emergency.
Mum’s GP, who was tremendously supportive, said he saw her as a ‘failed discharge’: someone discharged before they were clinically ready to leave hospital. Her GP said she had clearly been in no fit state to be sent home.
A difficult decision
Once Mum was back in the hospital they made it clear that she would be sent home again as soon as possible. We just couldn’t see how she could be safe at home, especially as there would be times when she would be alone. We felt we had little option but to look for a care home. We persuaded her that this was the right move – it would give her time to build up her strength - though she never did get well again.
No-one should have to go through what we went through
We were all disappointed and upset by our mother’s experiences at the hospital. A temporary transfer via her local community hospital would have made such a difference to Mum. If only the system worked properly, then families like us would be spared unnecessary stress and anxiety. People like my mum would be safe, cared for and (with luck) happy.
The subject of this blog wishes to remain anonymous. The pictures are posed by a model.
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