"Long term care for my partner's mum"
About: Inverclyde Royal Hospital / Trauma & orthopaedics Inverclyde Royal Hospital Trauma & orthopaedics PA16 0XN
Posted by KE (as ),
My Partner's mother suffers from severe arthritis and has been living with limited mobility - using crutches and occasionally wheelchairs to get around - for many years. Recently her condition has deteriorated further after hip and knee replacement operations. She has recovered well from both operations and staff were extremely supportive during these times. However, the recovery periods have exacerbated bouts of cellulitis in both legs and she has been completely unable to move around enough to really combat this. She's been admitted to hospital more than once to attempt to get a handle on the swelling and liquid retention. During these stays she has received physiotherapy which has helped, but once she’s been returned home she no longer receives this and things start to deteriorate again. She lives alone and receives home help and visits from the district nurses to wrap her legs almost every day, but is not making any significant improvement as it is so difficult (and potentially dangerous) for her to move around and do proper exercises on her own. My partner works overseas for 6 months out of the year and I live and work full time in Glasgow, so we’re unable to support her as much as we might like. I appreciate that resources are limited, but she hasn’t received any further physical therapy visits in months and, as far as I know, hasn’t been given any suggested exercise plans to attempt to work on on her own, though I doubt she’d make much progress on these without support anyway.
It has become a vicious cycle – her legs are too heavy to move around, which causes more pain in her back and related to her arthritis, making it even more difficult to move, so the cellulitis only gets worse. She hasn’t been up the stairs in the house in over a year and there’s so much fluid leaking through her dressings that it’s ruining clothes and she has to sleep on towels. Her quality of life is getting poorer and her mental wellbeing suffers from losing all of her independence and from the constant cycle of pain and discomfort that she is trapped in. This has been going on for so long, that it seems like a different approach needs to be explored. If the NHS in Scotland are truly committed to providing more robust community care, then something here needs to change – she definitely doesn’t want to spend any more time in hospital if she doesn’t have to.
I’ve been told her case is to be reviewed at a future meeting and to be referred to the vascular clinic - although she has been referred here before and, due to staff shortages, had nothing but cancelled appointments for months on end. Having worked for the NHS myself, I know there is a tendency to allow staff to leave and then not replace them in the hopes that their remaining colleagues will pick up the slack, despite their already excessive workloads. I am proud and grateful that we have the NHS and that its performance in many areas in Scotland is exemplary. However, I think the lack of foresight in these policies is disgraceful and if upper management continue to rely on an undervalued, underpaid and overworked work force, while paying lip service to improving recruitment policies, then her case will continue to be the norm and I believe that is frankly embarrassing.
I must emphasise that all the staff – doctors, nurses and admin – at Inverclyde Royal Hospital have been as helpful and supportive as they can be, whenever Sarah has had dealings with them. If her case can be looked at in more detail and a real effort made to make significant changes to her care, that would be a fantastic outcome. However, this is also a reflection of bigger issues within the organisation and I am hoping that submitting this story here will be of some help in highlighting these.