My Dad’s a Goldfish – Hospital (part 2)

I managed to alienate the nurse (rank undetermined as I’m still trying to work out the colour coded uniforms) who said she was ‘happy’ to discuss any concerns I had. That is, until she realised she couldn’t answer my questions. She shuts down – telling me to ring the consultant’s secretary. Why do I do it? Why can’t I keep the edge of sarcasm out of my voice?

I should learn not to ask questions they can’t answer but the Goldfish had been in hospital for over a week. As he was admitted on a Saturday not much happened other than quantities of blood taken and sent to the lab. They all came back ‘clear’. Next they stopped the Alzheimer medication in case it had caused a change to the heart rhythms and asked a cardiologist to see him – a day, maybe two, after they stopped the medication. Would 48 hours without one med make a difference?

The Goldfish was being kept in hospital for no apparent reason. They weren’t treating him for anything, he had no infection and they don’t know what caused the episode when he became unconscious. The scan was never done. Did he trip and fall and knock himself out? Doctors think it may have been a TIA (transient ischemic attack) – quite usual in patients with vascular dementia. There’s nothing to be done. So why not discharge him?

Three days later I’m beyond caring who I alienate. The Goldfish is becoming increasingly agitated about being kept, against his will as he sees it, in hospital. He’s determined to come home – packs his belongings in his bag and sets off down the corridor. They usually catch him before he leaves through the swing doors. They solved the bag-packing problem by hiding his bag behind his locker. This is the ward where they have had special training to look after dementia patients! Now, a patient who has dementia, is distressed about not being allowed to go home is becoming ever more anxious because his bag has disappeared – possibly stolen. Still, it means they don’t have to keep escorting him back to bed.

Every day they put a specimen collecting jar on his bedside table. “He’s supposed to give them a urine sample,” the patient in the next bed, helpfully told me. The nurse tells him when he goes to have a pee he should put some in the jar. He has dementia! He can’t remember that he’s been told to do this. Half the time he can’t remember where the toilet is. This has, predictably, resulted in ‘accidents’ so they make him wear an incontinence pad. This is what special training in care of dementia patients means. Maybe I got it wrong and they haven’t been given special training.

Every so often the Goldfish asks where he is and I explain he’s in hospital. Then he asks, “Did you come in the car?”

“Yes, I drove over.”

“Well,” he says, “I’ll just come home with you, then.”

I explain again he has to stay in hospital for another day until the doctor has seen him. Then he asks why he is there and we go round it all again until the tea trolley arrives to give us a wee break, much to the relief of the other patients who must feel they’re listening to a stuck record.

Nurse said he can’t go home until an assessment has been done and his care package increased. I ask her by how many hours the package would need to be increased to prevent a TIA occurring. She really hates me now.

Next day and still no assessment then it’s the weekend. Manage to speak to an OT who says she’ll call on Monday. When she doesn’t, I ring her. At least I try to ring her – turns out it’s a local holiday so she’s not at work. Begin to think my dad will die in there. Phone local social services, explain the situation to duty social worker and ask if she can’t get dad out and we can look at care package once he’s home. She agrees this sounds like a good plan, tells me she’ll call me back. Twenty minutes later, she phones – all sorted. We can collect him tomorrow and bring him home.

I don’t know what has happened on this ward. Last time he was in the care was good. The nurses took his ‘This is Me’ bag with notes on his life – childhood, school, work, likes, dislikes, hobbies. They kept it with his notes and they read it and talked to him about the things they had read. This time the bag is left on top of his locker, the notes unread. No one knows anything about the Goldfish – other than he has two daughters, one of whom is perfectly nice, one of whom is stroppy and given to making sarcastic remarks.

As for the step-monster’s role during this time – well, she buggered off to have a couple of weeks ‘respite’ at her sister’s. Didn’t even say goodbye to the Goldfish. She says he won’t remember. But I will!

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12 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Hospital (part 2)

  1. How’s your dad now, Mary? I hope he’s in good spirits.
    I saw the monster in Dumfries a couple of weeks ago and as she walked by me I burst out laughing and she threw me a “look”. I just couldn’t help myself. Not quite sure what I would have said to her if she had stopped me though!!

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    • He’s not doing great right now, Ruth, although yesterday he was brighter and eating again. We never know from one day to the next how he will be.

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    • It’s depressing and it makes me angry which uses up a lot of my emotional energy which I need for dad. Many nurses are really, really, good, especially when nursing a patient with something acute – be it a broken arm, a burst appendix or a heart attack. The patient has a good chance of recovering, will probably be co-operative while in hospital – and be grateful for the care. Patients with dementia are not going to get better, may well appear to be unco-operative and not in the least bit grateful to the wonderful staff of ward xx when they are discharged. You can put in place all the training you like on dementia care but you can’t teach empathy – or common sense.
      I think the care of dementia patients is appalling but I also remember a few years ago a friend was in hospital in a general ward. He was paralysed and couldn’t turn in the bed. The nurses were showing their exasperation at being asked to change his position so frequently. He said he felt like a ‘cowped yowe’ (a sheep tipped over). Then he was moved to the unit for terminal cancer patients and the nursing staff were so totally different, had time to turn him, no show of impatience (with the result, of course, he needed to be turned less frequently) – and it was not because there was a higher ratio of nursing staff to patients.
      I didn’t mean to reply at such length. I know there are excellent nurses and some exceptional people working in dementia care – just not in the hospital dad has to use.

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  2. Thank heavens for stroppy daughters who are prone to sarcasm. And heaven help patients who don’t have someone to ask the questions. So much is caused by staff ‘not thinking’. Situations like ‘just buzz if you need us’ but then they leave the buzzer out of reach of the patient! You’d think the way the NHS is they’d be only too keen to get people back home earlier rather than later. Lots of non communication too between staff and departments. As you say, you can be lucky and get a good member of staff or a good ward or a good time, but that should be the baseline, not a case of ‘lucky if you get it’. Keep up the stroppiness Mary!

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  3. You have every right to be stroppy! There is no excuse for the way your dad was treated. Sadly, it seems to happen more and more. Here in the US, the way service veterans are treated (or rather, not treated) is a national disgrace. The care staff is either overworked and burned out, or they never had any empathy in the first place. I’ll never forget when I was about 16, my mom had a stroke in the middle of the night. Dad and I rushed her to the nearest Naval hospital (Dad was in the Navy) and I jumped out of the car to run in to the emergency care unit and get help, plus a wheelchair or gurney. The hall was deserted, save for one woman mopping the floor. I ran up to her, told her my mom was very ill, and asked where I could find a doctor or nurse. She scowled at me and snapped, “You don’t see any here in the hall, do you? And you’re tracking dirt on my clean floor.” Can you believe I actually apologized to her? Today, I’d probably dump her bucket of mop water right over her head. And then bonk her with the bucket.

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    • Thanks, Lori. I just wish I could find a way to say what needs to be said without coming over all stroppy. I’d like to be assertive wihtout the stroppiness! I think it stems from hating confrontation – at one time I’d probably have apologised to the cleaning woman as you did – and so not saying anything and seting inwards until it erupts.
      What a terrible story about your mum. I hope you did find a doctor to come to her.
      I think the lack of empathy is a major part of the problem. It’s easy to feel it for someone who is grateful to have had an operation or an infection cured but it takes a lot more to empathise with somene who doesn’t know why they are there, can scarcely communicate and who needs a huge amount of time to do anything such as eating.

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  4. I agree, Mary, we have to be the outspoken advocate for our loved ones with dementia, especially during time in the hospital. My neighbor, Miss D spent 59 days in the hospital, in only a hospital gown with a hospital aide stationed in her room 24 hours a day so she wouldn’t leave. It became a jail to her, made her anxious and she even got pneumonia being there. It was hell for her and all I could do was keep nudging the social workers to get this resolved through emails and being in their face at the hospital.

    By the way, Miss D is still home and on a visit a few days ago, I felt she was more relaxed and maybe she’s accepting the home aides. She looked really good to me. Thanks for asking about her in our last post reply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by. I hadn’t realised Miss D was 59 days in hospital (though not suprised she got pneumonia while there – it happens a lot) and under such appalling circumstances. If someone is already confused it must be terrifying to feel they are being kept against their will. And what it you had not been there to nudge the social workers? And why should someone have to nudge them to do their job?
      I’m glad to hear Miss D is doing well at the moment. It must be a weight off your mind to see her more relaxed and looking good.

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