Tuesday 9 November 2010


Mum was expected to be in hospital only a few days. She is still there.

On days when I haven't been able to visit, I've rung the ward where Mum is convalescing. The usual routine is that I ask the Staff Nurse how Mum is doing. The Nurse fails to recognise Mum's name. The Hospital staff are calling her by her first name, which Mum has never used and to which she doesn't respond. No matter how many times I correct this, they haven't altered their information in 2 weeks.

Then, when I ask again, the Nurse puts the phone down before I finish and goes to speak to Mum, who of course says that everything is fine, which the Nurse reports back to me. I then have to inform the Nurse that Mum has dementia and is hardly a reliable source, and that I was asking about the progress of her recovery and not her mood.

When I called a few days ago, the news I got back was alarming:

"Oh yes, we've had someone in to assess your Mother for Nursing Care and we're attempting to place her in a Home."
"Excuse me?"
"We've assessed her as unable to walk, so we need to find her a Home."
"She's IN a Care Home ALREADY."
"Ah......... er......"

The phone was handed to someone else, who repeated the above statements. She explained that my Mother's Care Home is listed in their records as a "Residential Home". I took the opportunity to correct this misperception and informed them that the Home is more than adequately equipped to deal with Mum and that there is a dedicated Nursing floor in the building, should nursing be required. I got the distinct impression that I was being humoured at this point.

I rang the Care Home in a state of panic. They reassured me that Mum could not be taken off their hands without their own assessment taking place first. The member of staff, who sees Mum regularly, told me that Mum is often uncooperative with people she doesn't know and that, in her opinion, Mum was probably unwilling to trust the strangers who were attempting to get her to walk. She said that she had seen Mum refuse unfamiliar Care Workers in the Home.

Just as my blood pressure was returning to normal, however, the member of staff said: "We'll make our own assessment and decide then whether she can come back onto the household."

I was perplexed because Mum being unable to walk isn't a new situation. She was in a wheelchair for a few months back in 2008, around the time of her 80th birthday. After that, the local GP gave her some cortisone shots to her knees and Mum was able to walk with relative ease almost immediately. When Mum's knees started to trouble her again this year, I requested that the shots be repeated, but this wasn't done. I couldn't understand why this same situation was now threatening a change of environment. The member of staff informed me that fees for the Nursing floor were substantially higher, upwards of £900 per week. My heart sank. The fees for Mum are currently £625 per week and her income is £400. Taking on a shortfall of £500 per week would mean that we would run through Mum's capital quickly.

I experienced a lot of paranoid thoughts at this point. I thought that the Home was probably seeking to maximise profits by taking the opportunity of Mum's assessment to charge more, even though she has been in the same condition in the past with no question of changing her care. Then I started to worry that this was all MY fault, because I had informed the Home of the reason for Mum's infection - the inadequate hydration regime. I felt that we were being persecuted now for daring to criticise.

I despaired and sank into helpless inactivity.

Today, the acting Manager of the Care Home telephoned me to inform me of the Nursing assessment, unsure if I had been informed. I questioned her vigorously on her reasons for treating Mum differently this time and she was obviously surprised to hear that Mum has been in precisely this state before without anyone changing her status. She told me that since 2 other residents on the household were now also in need of nursing care, Mum's change of status would be too much for the team to handle and that Mum would have to return to the Home on the Nursing floor.

"So the other 2 people get to stay in their familiar surroundings and Mum is penalised?"
"Not penalised... but moved."

I went into a long explanation of our finances and she eventually reassured me that the increase in fees would be met by a Local Authority subsidy of £108, although I was not at all convinced that £625 + £108 = £900. It turns out that newcomers to the Home are being charged £795 per week and that Mum benefits from a discount for having been there from the start. The £108 is based upon the discrepancy between £795 and £900. The Manager assured me that we would not notice a hike in our payments if Mum was assessed as requiring a move to the Nursing floor.

After much grizzling from me, we eventually agreed on Mum coming back to her familiar surroundings for 2 weeks, giving her a chance to feel at home and possibly receive cortisone shots to her knees. After this 2 weeks, the assessment will be made about her future.

I'm visiting the Hospital and the Care Home tomorrow.


accidental carer said...

Greg I feel for you but whilst you have the energies keep fighting. Mum can't do it for herself. I have mentioned before that in my work I hear so many tales of inappropriate care. When is something going to be done about it? How many Panorama programmes must we watch?
I have found in the eight years I have been a carer for my husband more time has been spent fighting for care than actually caring.
I wish you well in the weeks ahead and hope that Mum is comfortable wherever she ends up. Trish x

Gavin said...

Your Mom is lucky to have such an involved advocate. Most of what should happen is common sense, but the world is sorely lacking in that.

If she needs to make the change, is there a place closer to where you live?

I'm going to start looking for at places to accommodate the next step in my Mom's care. She's been resisting taking her pills and I wonder how long it will be before her needs go beyond the "assisted living" level of care. I want to be prepared when that happens.

Greg said...

Trish, I'm still grateful to the Care Home for a lot of things they've got right, and it gives me comfort to know that Mum has been happier there than she was back in her own flat in Sussex. The Home is so forward thinking and has such excellent facilities that it has always been a frustration to me to see them drop the ball when it comes to staff. However, this IS improving. They've had another change of management and I'm noticing the difference. They're consulting us for feedback, for a start (I might write about that).

Y|O|Y, I'm sorry to hear that you may have to move your Mom again - the place she's in sounds like a good home. I hadn't realised that they couldn't cope with more advanced cases. As for my Mother, I have no plans to move her as yet. The staff in the Hospital and at the Care Home have been telling me some stories about Mum that make me realise that she, too, can be a little resistant (okay, "willful"). It seems she puts on the "beaming old lady" act for me when I visit. Again, I think this is something I may write about soon.