"How do elderly patients without strong advocates get the help they need?"

About: John Radcliffe Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

My elderly mother was admitted with severe pain from gallstones. Within 5 days she contracted hospital acquired pneumonia. This was treated. They then suspected she had a stroke. They tried to discharge her from the stroke unit. She was unable to walk and barely conscious. We objected strenously and they capitulated. That afternoon she was moved into the medical ward and it was discovered she had a severe chest infection which had returned. The current position is that she is delerious and unable to communicate due to delerium from the infection. They are treating with iv antibiotics.

I have been appalled at the way my mother has been treated, along with medical judgement being seriously lacking as far as I can understand, basic common sense does not seem to have been applied.

If my mother survives this experience, and I have my doubts about that, I am concerned that other vulnerable elderly patients will be treated like this. The only reason my mother was not discharged in that perilous condition was because she has some very strong advocates in the form of her family.

I believe basic nursing care is lacking. Waiting 2 hours to be taken to the toilet, refusing decent pain relief, trying to discharge a dangerously ill patient, poor hygiene in the parts of the hospital that my mother has been treated in resulting in pneumonia. The food so unappealing that my mother refused to touch it because she was frightened it would make her ill. When so ill she was unable to eat on her own, no help was offered.

From my mother's experience, I believe there is a lack of communication from hospital staff, we have often been unable to speak to the doctor, we have had doctors failing to return calls when our family have expressed concern. I also believe my mother suffered discrimination due to her age. Her hearing aid was broken (by a member of staff) but it was not repaired, I have observed staff failing to recognise my mother's deafness and not ensuring that communicaion was enabled. I could go on.

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Responses

Response from Stroke Association, Stroke Association

We saw your post about the care and treatment that your mother received in hospital, it sounds like you are upset with the service and concerned for how other vulnerable elderly patients would cope if they were in a similar situation.

Organisations like ours try to reach out to people who need advocacy and additional support. We have support workers across the UK, providing information, advice and support to people affected by stroke. Our services are funded by PCTs or social services and we receive referrals from hospitals, social services, friends and family and self referrals so we can support people affected by stroke from the moment of diagnosis. Sadly, not all areas provide funding for these services so we also campaign to raise awareness about stroke, demonstrating the need for our services, and encourage people to understand more about the long term affects of stroke.

We try to reach everyone who needs us, either through our publications or advertisements, which list our helpline number.

We also direct people to crucial services such as, ICAS an advocacy service for vulnerable people who wish to make a complaint about health and social care. http://icas.org.uk/default.aspx

As well as organisations like Age UK, who work endlessly to improve services and support for older people. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/

I was sorry to read about your mother’s health care problems and her suspected stroke. It is not clear from your email if your mother did have a stroke. Stroke is brain attack which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. The cause of a stroke can be a bleed (haemorrhagic stroke) or blockage (ischaemic stroke) in the brain. Because the brain controls everything that the body does the damage to the brain will affect bodily functions. The effects can be physical, psychological and/or cognitive.

I have attached a leaflet about this for you to read if you need more information about stroke:

http://www.stroke.org.uk/about/what-is-a-stroke

It sounds like you are not happy with the treatment your mother received. It might be helpful to speak to the Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS). They provide confidential support and help to resolve problems and concerns with the GP and hospital. In addition, they can provide information on complaints procedures. They will also be able to direct you to an advocacy service in the area. Its really important to raise your concerns to the NHS so they can improve there services and resolve problems. To find out the number for your local Patient Advice and Liaison services you can contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

Please note you can download our full range of leaflets and factsheets free of charge from our website http://www.stroke.org.uk

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further, please do not hesitate to contact us again. The Stroke Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0303 30 33 100.

Yours sincerely

Stroke Information Service

info@stroke.org.uk

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