"My fathers treatment by various social services before he died"

About: South West London And St George's Mental Health NHS Trust / Older people's mental health Sutton / Social services

(as a relative),

My 82 yr old father showed signs of dementia which started to become serious in November 2014. The local GP referred him to The Sutton Older People's CMHT.

Over the next 5 months before he died in March this particular department were absolutly brilliant. Our contact was a Community Psychiatric Nurse called Brian who we really felt cared about my fathers wellbeing and tried hard to get the right care for my father. However both Brian, myself and my disabled Mother (80) had an uphill struggle when dealing with the local social services. It took Brian several weeks to get anyone to come out to see my father.

We felt relieved when someone did visit as his mental capacity was deteriorating fast. As soon as SS realised my Dad could pay they quite dramatically washed their hands of us (Brian was very unhappy).

The contact said she passed us over to a care agency. I asked for contact number and was told that I would not need one as we would not need to get back in touch and to wait for a call from the agency. A week later my mother managed to ring SS and was told (by the same person) that SS had on their records that we did not require any care or follow ups.

By this stage my father was nearly completely incontinent and regularly soiling areas of the living room. My disabled mother was really struggling as was I. I do not live near and could only visit one or twice a week. We contacted care agencies ourselves, we should have done this in January but we did not know that we were going to get zero support from SS. But this was too little too late and he was taken into hospital because his ulcerated legs were so hugely swollen he could no longer stand.

I had asked the community nurses that looked after his legs was his heart responsible for the poor leg circulation and should the doctor see him but nothing happened. My mother is the type to not bother the doctor but she did ring at least once, nothing happened until Brian wrote to the surgery and finally the doctor did come out (too late, Dad was in hospital).

In hospital, although the care was good, but even then Dad was assessed by the Occupational Therapy team and we were told all he required was a walking frame! Subsequently they changed their minds and decided we needed a hospital bed, but again too late as within days he died of congestive heart failure.

My conclusion, backed also by talking to others in the same situation is that Social Services will do nothing for you if you have any money unless you go into hospital when your needs will be assessed and you may get some help. It was difficult even for the Sutton Older People's CMHT to get us the care we required.

Social Services could have guided my Mother through this difficut time. Telling her where to get paid help, where to get respite, how to look after my Dad, instead it was one visit and then 'you can pay for it, you are on your own'.

The final blow was that my disabled Mother was refused any form of Attendance Allowance because my Dad was not 'bad enough'. Just before he went into hospital my Dad was spending all night sat up on a sofa (Mum could not move him) talking to the people in his head, he could not wash or dress himself and was soiling the room constantly (unless Mum was there to tell him to use something). My mother can hardly walk. Help was coming but it was too late

. Looking back it is easy to say why didn't we help ourselves sooner? Simply because we did not know what to do, what was available and everything happened so fast. Every day was different and worse. The people that see these things daily could have helped us but they did not.

This is not everything that happened. I did not believe what I saw on the media about how bad social services is run but now I know it is true. Surely it is clear that a disabled 80 year old woman is not going to shout and scream to get help but just sit there and get on with things, it should just happen. Yes we could pay for the help but just help us get it!

Another thing clear to me is that the local GP surgeries quite literally leave you to die after the age of 80. My father's legs were being seen by district nurse twice a week for around 6 months and gradually getting worse (bigger) never healing and the GP did not come and see for himself despite my Mother phoning the surgery.

The Mental Health Team seem to work well, presumably bacause they have a specific and tight brief. Maybe social services should be made up of small units like this, one dept dedicated to helping people in the community who can pay for care to get care.

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Response from Becky Chipere, South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust

Dear Boxfish

My name is Becky Chipere and I am a community matron with the Trust.

I am saddened and sorry to hear about your family's experience with Social Services. I will ensure that your comments are passed on to them.

I am however pleased to hear that the CMHT and in particular Brian was very supportive and proactive in trying to get the support you so much needed and that overall your experience with our services was a positive one. I will pass on your comments to Brian and his team.

Importantly I would like to thank you for taking the time to give such detailed feedback which I hope colleagues in SS will take on board.

With Kind Regards


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