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Do we really care for older people?

  • Comments (3)

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?

  • Comments (3)

Readers' comments (3)

  • Anonymous

    The small things we should be doing no matter whether we are trained nurses, students, HCA's, AHP's or medical first and foremost treating everyone as a PERSON. Yes we are all under pressure and constraints but if people would only see that extra few minutes to explainprocedures, give reassurance this in the long run would actually save time! Especially if someone does have cognitive impairment, their distress will enevitablly become worse if they are being told to wait a minute etc, unfamiliar surroundings, strange faces etc! The answer to all this is easy COMMUNICATION treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself and in the long run will save time, unnecessary distress but most of all you will get more satisfaction from nursing older people who will respond to a kind word and a smile.

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  • If you admit a patient and have to leave them or if they request something and you do not have time immediately how much extra time does it cost simply to say to them you don't have time straight away but you will be back? you could even give them a brief explanation of why you have to leave them and instead of leaving a new patient such as Phyllis, explain to what she can expect to happen in the next few hours and propose what she might do in the meantime. Find someone asap to show her round her room and the ward (or if the patient is not mobile at least explain to them), show them where essential things are such as the bathroom, bell, locker, and when meals and tea and coffee are served. introduce her to her room mate, other patients, one or two staff members, etc. just at least make her feel welcome and reassure her that is in safe and confident hands and will be looked after.

    As for the other lady, at least one makes a little small talk first, enquiries how she is and explains they wish to ask a few questions or carry out a procedure, etc.

    It can take but a few seconds and cost nothing to show that the patient is welcome and that you care about and for them! A friendly smile costs even less!

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello everyone

    So I just want to respond to the comments as always.

    Anonymous – I would agree that it is the role of all members of staff to practice good communication with the patients.
    I very well articulated point, thank you.

    µ - Thanks for your comment, I would agree that it doesn't take long to explain a few things or to engage in a bit of small talk. It really makes the difference as well because a lot of stress in a hospital environment is caused by patients simply not knowing what is going to happen and when. This is something that everybody has the power to tackle and I'm pleased to say that on the most part the message is getting through.

    Thanks for your comments and I look forward to speaking to you on the next article.

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