Sunday 31 October 2010

Hallowe'en Fright

The phone rang a little after midnight. It was from the Care Home. Mum was on her way to Hospital. They told me that she had been throwing up, had suddenly gone very pale and clammy to the touch. They would call again if there was more news.

I arrived at the Hospital in the afternoon. It was alarming to walk in and see Mum looking so altered. She was canted over to one side in bed and looked dishevelled and shrunken. Her left hand was shaking as she pawed distractedly at the cannula fitted to the back of her right. "Hello Mum", I said and she gaped blankly before peering out of the door past me, looking down the corridor to the activity around the administration desk on the unit. After a few more attempts to get her attention I asked her outright if she knew who I was. "You...are...Greg", she said, eventually. She couldn't have looked less interested.

I went to find a chair so I could sit beside her bed. On my return, I noticed that Mum's arm was still shaking and I wondered if she was nervous, so I reached out to hold her hand. As her hand rested in mine, I felt the coldness below and realised that the bedclothes were soaking wet and soiled. The window was open and Mum was sitting in a draught in her own filth - she wasn't shaking, she was shivering!

I closed the window and called a Nurse into the room. As he went to get someone else to replace the bedlinen, I noticed that Mum's IV drip was empty and that her oxygen mask had slipped. How long had she been like this? How long would she have been left like this until someone had noticed? I began to panic about the future and how I would cope when Mum was more seriously ill.

The Nurse came back in to check on Mum's vital signs. They were low, and he fiddled with the oxygen supply before replacing the mask on Mum's face. I was ushered out of the room while they changed Mum's sheets and gave her a couple of blankets.

The Staff Nurse gave me a rapid summary of Mum's condition and their treatment plan, but his accent was strong and he peppered his talk with so much jargon that I ended up deciding to ask someone else. The other Nurse, who'd brought the clean sheets, was much better - warm and chatty - and both Mum and I warmed up chatting to her whilst she brushed Mum's hair.

She told me that Mum's illness stemmed from an infection in her bowels, brought about by impacted waste which was, in turn, due to constipation. The reason for the constipation was dehydration. She said that anyone brought in from a Care Home was always dehydrated - they just don't push sufficient liquids in these places. She told me that the Hospital had given Mum a couple of enemas to stimulate a bowel movement and had performed an endoscopy to inspect her inflamed innards. She thought Mum would be here a few days yet.

By the time I had to leave, Mum was doing much better and I didn't feel quite so conflicted about leaving her as I had before. I believe my visit helped the staff see that Mum wasn't some unwanted husk. Someone cared how she was doing.

A close friend just told me: "it's a good thing you were there for her today". And for once I feel able to accept that I have done something good for Mum.


accidental carer said...

I wish you well with your battle now Greg. Since I have been following your blog however I can see that you have done so many things for your Mum -don't doubt that.
Through my work I hear these stories so often about the minimal care and hope you don't mind if I suggest that you write down your list of questions every day you visit. Also take Mum food and water yourself. Only what you SEE happen will you KNOW happens.
I hope the helpful nurse is on duty as much as possible. They are all overworked but we do rely on them to care for our loved ones while we cannot.
Hoping that Mum returns to the care home very soon and remember to take care of you whilst all this is going on. x

citygirl said...

Oh Greg I'm sorry to read about this hospital visit. It's so sad & scary to see your mom in the hospital, especially in the state you found her in.

My mom was also taken to the hospital a couple of times and dehydration was the big problem. It's sad the homes don't have the staff, time or care (?) to hydrate the residents.

I actually voiced this concern to a study that the Province is conducting here about nursing homes. The person who interviewed me was slightly shocked at this issue. I noted that I realize most homes do not have the staff to sit and hold cups of liquids up to residents who can't drink by themselves. I also connected the dehydration issue with the changing of diapers issue: the less fluid the residents get, the less changes of diapers they'll need. Do you know the nursing homes here actually have some "diaper rule" about how many diapers a resident should be using per day?! This rule is purely from a budget point-of-view which really disgusted me. Who knows if my concern got anywhere but it's something to think about.

I hope your mom is doing better Greg...thinking of you :) citygirl

karen said...

I am so glad you were able to help your mom. I know that if we are not near or in the hospital with mom when she is there she will not be cared for very much. Mom had eye surgery a about a month ago and she was in the hospital nine days. It was a constent fight to keep her clean and turned so she would not get a bed sore. I know they are busy but if mom did not make noise they would forget about her so we made noise for her. You are a great son and doing a great job. Your mom is a lucky women to have you.

Greg said...

Thank you all. I'm sorry I've not responded personally to each of your comments. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed of late. I appreciate your concern and advice and I'm certainly noticing the same slippages in care that you mention.

Seeing Mum lying there in such a condition was a reality check for me. I think I've become a little complacent. It hit me that I will be back here, doing this again, at least once. And probably not too long from now.

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