Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Springing Dad by Mary Smith
I’ve been saying for ages I will blog about this journey through dementia-land we have embarked on, so I thought I’d offer up a short extract – and you can tell me if you think people would be interested in reading such a blog (on another site, obviously).
Arrive at the hospital to find dad sitting in the chair beside his bed. He’s unshaven, hair all over the place, no dressing gown, no slippers. We are grateful he least has pyjamas on – even though they are not his own.
He has spilt his water on his bedside table and the post cards I sent from Arran, the pictures peeling from the backing card are floating about beside saturated tissues and an empty cardboard sample container. He has lifted his bare feet out of the puddle on the floor, resting them on the table leg. How long since anyone checked on him, I wonder?
Although pleased to see me, dad is agitated and fidgety. I ask if he needs to go to the toilet. He nods. “But I don’t know where it is,” he whispers. I take him to the toilet. He has an incontinence pad between his legs which causes a bit of a kerfuffle until I get him settled on the loo and leave to give him some privacy. Dad has never been incontinent, has always known when he needs to go to the loo and been capable of going so we suspect the pad is the nurses’ way of trying to make things easier for themselves.
While waiting I clean up around his bed, retrieving a sticky knife, a chip, more damp tissues. OH and I debate the orange blobby object under next door patient’s bed. “Is it an apricot?” he asks.
“Don’t be daft – they won’t get apricots in here. It’ll be jelly.” We look away.
Orange blobby stuff still in place. Dad shaved but hair not brushed, no slippers. Specimen sample – empty – on his table. Patient next door tells me the nurse puts it there every morning, telling dad when he goes to spend a penny he should put some in the container. Does she not know he has severe dementia? She must do. She’s working on a ward for elderly patients, 90 per cent of whom have dementia. The other ten percent probably have by the time they leave.
The nurse (rank undetermined as I’m still trying to work out the colour coded uniforms) is ‘happy’ to discuss any concerns I have. That is, until she realises she can’t answer my questions and 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?
They thought it might have been a stroke which resulted in dad being unconscious on the floor one morning. His wife (the wicked step-monster) was at the garden gate waiting for Wee-sis to arrive, leaving dad out cold on the floor. At the hospital they said they would do a scan the next day – but they didn’t, still haven’t.
Doctors think it was a TIA (transient ischemic attack) – quite usual in patients with vascular dementia. There’s nothing to be done. So why not discharge him? 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. Take him back to his bed. He must walk miles!
To ‘solve’ the problem of a demented patient trying to escape, the nurses take away his belonging and his bag and hide them behind his locker – so now a confused, distraught old man is even more distraught because all his things have disappeared. This is a ward for people with dementia, staffed by people who have supposedly had some training in nursing elderly confused patients.
Nurse says 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. She doesn’t and in the end I ring her – it’s a local holiday, not in today. 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.
On a more positive note No More Mulberries received a lovely review on April Wood’s A Well Read Woman blog which she followed with an interview.