Part 3 of my Guest Blogger Chrissie Fuller’s observations on my 95 year old mother’s three month stay in hospital.

Sylvia was moved into the Rehabilitation Ward at Royal Preston Hospital and we were hoping that she would soon be on her way home, but it was not to be. At this point she had already been in hospital for over three weeks and had contracted an infection for which she was put on oral antibiotics.

Despite a visit from the District Nurse and the Social Worker, it was clear that she would not be discharged until she was deemed to be fully fit. Having finally finished the course of antibiotics, Sylvia was then diagnosed with shingles and promptly moved, yet again, into a side ward because the infection can be highly contagious. She remained there for a further two weeks. During that time, because her hand was severely swollen due to excessive bandaging of the arm, the staff were advised to elevate it in a suspended sling. One evening when we visited, the sling was hanging off her arm and the nurse, a Staff Nurse, admitted that she didn’t know how to use it! If was left to me to show her how to fit it – she had been trying to use it upside down!

As it was by now becoming very expensive making the trip to and from Preston to Chorley every day, we were informed that there was a bed available at Chorley Hospital and that she would be moved there on the Friday evening. We asked Preston Hospital to ask Chorley Hospital to notify us as soon as she arrived there so that we could visit her there. By 8pm at night we had still not heard anything so I rang the ward and was told that she had not yet arrived, but they would ring us as soon as she did. We never got the phone call, so that night Sylvia did not see anyone from her family.

The following day we went to visit her at Chorley and she was confused and disorientated but, having had personal experience of the ward she was on, (my father was there for 10 weeks and very well cared for, even though at one point they told us he was beyond hope and would die – as it happened we “stuck to our guns” and he has now made an almost full recovery), I felt that the care she would receive would be be of a better quality than at Preston. We managed to speak to the doctor who assured us that he wanted to be in a position to discharge her as quickly as possible in order to free up the bed and that as soon as he had run a few tests on her he would be happy to let her go home, so long as the care plan was in place.

In week six, a couple of days after being admitted to Chorley, for reasons unknown, Sylvia was again moved, this time into another side ward. We were told that it was because she didn’t like the bright lights on the main ward. This has been an ongoing problem, partly due to her poor eyesight but it is also a symptom of dementia which appeared to be getting worse by the day. She had difficulty recognising her grandson and granddaughter and was insisting that she was eating her meals when it was plainly obvious that she was not. When she was weighed a few days later she had dropped from 6.5 stones to 5.5! When asked why there was no help with her feeding the response was that they would do so if she asked for it! As if……!

In week eight when we called to visit on the Saturday afternoon we were horrified to find her laying in her bed in the hospital corridor. She had been there for over an hour before she was moved again into the main ward, this time because they needed the side room for a more seriously ill patient. Less than a day later she had to be moved into yet another side ward because she had the runs and they needed to be sure that she wasn’t infectious. As it turned out, she wasn’t infectious but she spent a further two weeks in this isolation ward, completely alone, with the door closed most of the time. It was quite obvious that this was having an adverse effect on her mental health as she became more and more confused and her weight continued to drop because she was incapable of feeding herself and. more to the point, incapable of asking for help to do so!

In week 10, she was finally moved back onto the main ward, bright lights and all, where she was given the medical all clear to go home. A multi-disciplinary team meeting was eventually held and it was agreed that she would be released from hospital on the following Thursday week. At this point her weight was only 5 stones.

It is worth mentioning at this point the almost complete lack of empathy coming from the hospital staff. Whenever we had a question or needed to have an update on Sylvia’s condition we always received the same response which was “I couldn’t possibly comment on that”. The other observation I must make is that in spite of the large numbers of “staff” on the wards, apart from the weekends, when in many cases there were only four staff looking after up to thirty patients, whenever we approached any of them we were given the automaton-like response “I’m sorry – I don’t work on this ward”.

Well, if they don’t work on that ward, what the hell are they doing there using the equipment and tending to patients? Its almost as if they are pre-programmed automatons with no human interactive skills whatsoever!

One evening, when we went to visit, we witnessed one of the dementia patients answering the telephone on reception! The  number of patients with dementia taking up beds and the nurses’ time is quite scary. There was a female patient in Preston Hospital who could not be left alone AT ANY TIME and she needed to hold hands with a nurse whilst wandering around the ward as if she owned it because if left to her own devices she would steal other patients belongings or generally disrupt their treatment. She should NOT have been in there, but where could she go? On another occasion a male patient with dementia kept trying to walk into Sylvia’s room and when asked to leave he became abusive – one of the nurses later told us that he had kicked her on numerous occasions. Then there was the lady who came into Sylvia’s room and asked if she could escape via the windows! No wonder the NHS is in meltdown – too many otherwise healthy patients taking up valuable resources that could be better used elsewhere!

In Part Four I will tell you what happened the meantime please feel free to leave your comments below……..or read it on my blog at The Chrissie Fuller Daily