While at my community placement I visited an older patient to assess what help and support she would need in order for her to remain at her own home.
Recently there have been a slew of reports and accounts about the treatment of the elderly in hospital, but I wanted to convey one patient’s experience.
Her admission to hospital was unplanned and after so many hospital trips, she hadn’t come with any change of clothes or her own toiletries. Due to this she had to be allocated a pair of hospital nightclothes.
The patient, who I shall call Phyllis, takes up her story: “They stuck me in these pyjamas and wheeled me into a room with five other old ladies and just left me there.”
Does this remind you of your elderly care placement?
We all know the daily routine. A new patient gets admitted and we show them to the bed space, head off to find some notes and then returned to conduct some baseline observations.
All too often when people get into a regular routine they can forget that for the patient this could be the first time that they’ve been admitted to a hospital.
There is no greater example of where communication can put someone at ease than the example of Phyllis. Phyllis continues: “I was in there for hours and there was just nothing to do, then one doctor went to the lady opposite me and started asking a load of questions like ‘who’s the current prime minister?’ and ‘when did the second world war start?’ and then he just left.
“When he had gone the lady opposite me said ‘they must think we’re mad in here.’ It’s right you know, they must think we can’t add two and two together.”
What does that statement say to you?
Did you pick up on the fact that quite often care of the elderly wards get a lot of dementia patients admitted so for a doctor to conduct a mini mental test would be a fairly standard thing, or did you see it from Phyllis’s point of view?
Finally Phyllis adds: “You get tired of asking for things, every time you ask it’s always ‘just a minute’ or ‘in a minute dear’. Sometimes I think they say it before I’ve even finished my question.”
“Just a minute,” everyone has said it, but what happens if a minute turns into 10 minutes?
I genuinely don’t believe that the staff on a care of the elderly ward have any less compassion for their patients as any other nurse but with an ageing population and financial constraints on the health service it is a simple fact that nurses and support staff won’t be able to give the care that they would like to.
When we work on a care of the elderly ward, here is a qualified nurse or as a student, are there small things that we could be doing to improve patients’ experiences?
What do you think?