Thursday, 26 February 2015

Help Them Home

You know that thing with buses, nothing for ages and then they call come along at once?  Well after my first ever review post on Monday I was contacted and asked if I would post about something else.  This isn't a review and it isn't a sponsored post either.  It is just something that is really important that needs to be shared.

I was asked to share with you about the Royal Voluntary Service research called "Let's End Going Home Alone" and their campaign which has come from this called "Help Them Home".  Read more here.

I will be doing a post about what this means next week.  First though I have two stories to share with you which explain why I was so keen to take part in spreading this message.  In that famous journalistic line, names have been changed to protect privacy.  These stories are real, and the relationships are close and I don't wish to reveal too much, although you can draw your own conclusions, so please again forgive that!  If my posts and thoughts have ever seem odd or disjointed these stories are the reason why.

The Royal Voluntary Service research has looked at the hospital discharges of older people.  Apparently 40% of patients over the age of 75 are well enough to go home, but hospital delays are increasing.

One of the main reasons for these delays is the lack of suitable social care for older people.  The Royal Voluntary Services is setting up a campaign called "Home From Hospital" which involves volunteers providing practical help to older people after they leave hospital.

As I said though, I will share some more about this next week.

The stories though are these.

I have written a little about Lady over the last few months, and always called her Lady, so we shall stick with that.

Lady is in her mid 90's.  She still lives alone, but has lots of health problems, physical rather than mental.  As you do when you get that age.  She also has failing eyesight.  She does however have the unstinting support of a loving family.

Last year Lady was very sick.  Really ill and could not be at home on her own.  She had to be moved into a Nursing Home.  She stayed there from September until just a few weeks ago.  That is a long time to be away from home and your friends.  The reason that Lady was so delayed in getting home was because although she was became somewhat better in terms of health, she could not care for herself in terms of things like dressing and cooking a meal.  So she needed someone to come in and help with those things.  In England, this help should be available to you through your local Adult Social Care Services.  I will not bore you with the details, but Lady was assessed as needing and was eligible for Carers to come to her home three times a day and do what was needed.  No carers could be found for love nor money.  No matter how much money could have been offered!

That is why Lady was so long in the Nursing Home.  Without those Carers, and no matter how many lovely family members and friends she had to support her, she could not go home and be safe.

Finally though Lady has Carers coming in to see her in her own home and she is doing really well.  The Carers are lovely and Lady is settling back in really well with the support of her family too.  The Carers are great, but she would not be as well without her family doing what they have done.

Her family do all the extra things, take her out to her various clubs, ensure that her food is bought and delivered to her home, make appointments for her for doctors and so on, buy her books on tape to listen to - she cannot read any more.  All of those things.  No matter how good the Carers are, and my goodness she needed them to get home, if she was home without her family and friends support she would just be existing, not living.

The second story is about Man - see, the names are on a theme here!  I haven't written to you before about Man on my blog.  Man is a whole different case.  He is in his late 80's and again lives alone in his own home.  He was widowed some years ago, and although to outward appearances has dealt with that alright, if you look just a little more deeply he hasn't done well.

Again, Man has acknowledged physical health issues, age related and managed reasonably well.

Just under two years ago though Man started to have some other issues.  In the waterworks department.  Things had been rumbling along in an unsatisfactory manner for a couple of years before that, but Man had decided that there was nothing wrong with him, and most of his family agreed with him.  He is old, it is OK, to be expected, those kind of comments were made by Man and some family members.

However, things got worse and in the end even Man had to agree there was an issue.  Action was taken and he was finally presented to the doctor.  A lot of back and forth took place.  Hospital visits, consultations, attempts at treatment.  It was all very very difficult.  Man didn't seem to care about any of it, paid little attention to what was said or was going on, and made little effort to comply with the suggested treatments.

This went on for over 6 months and resulted in the person who was taking him to appointments and trying to manage the situation giving up their job in order to deal with everything that was going on.

The medical treatment was not at fault in any way - it was excellent in fact - it was Man's reaction to it and the way that some of those around him handled it that was difficult.

Eventually the doctors said that surgery was required and Man agreed.  Man actually agreed with great alacrity and didn't even ask any questions about it.  That was quite worrying.

The plan was for surgery to take place, Man would stay in hospital for one night and then go home the next day.  Now, I don't want to labour this, but as I said, it was a waterworks issue.  The plan was that once Man went home he would be able to do all the normal waterworks things with no aids or additional plumbing (if you get my drift).

Man duly went in for surgery, all went as well as it could and the next day rolled around.  His family - the ones actually dealing with the issue, not the ones in denial that there was even a problem - asked that they be informed of when he would be discharged as they wanted to be there and to see the doctor and make sure that all was well before he went home.  This didn't happen.

Now, I am not saying this as a poor reflection on the hospital, but this is where things started to go downhill.  Man was not discharged until about 7pm in the evening.  Yes, 7pm - night time!!!!  A man in his late 80's is expected to get himself home - he has no car at the hospital - and have food in store etc.  Also, there were still some additional plumbing features in place.  Man had no idea how to use them, care for himself or anything.  This was absolutely NOT what had been planned.

The family insisted that he stay another night as they did not think it appropriate for him to go home to a cold empty house at that time of night with no food or anything prepared.  They had made no plans or got in any food because they assumed that having not been discharged all day, he was staying another night.  They also had no idea that he would have additional care needs in terms of the plumbing.

So Man stayed another night.  Man went home the next day - with his extra pipes and so on - and the situation went steadily downhill from there.  There were all kinds of issues and problems, which went on for many months afterwards.  Thankfully, because Man had SOME family at least to help, he did not have to return to hospital.  Although without them, I cannot imagine what would have happened to him.  It is too frightening to contemplate.

Man is now reasonably OK, although is still not well, physically, and is also declining mentally.  Many of his family don't see it though and again persist with comments along the line of "he's old".

Man was eventually assessed by Adult Social Care.  By then, most, but not all, of his physical needs in terms of the plumbing items after surgery had been dealt with.  However, he did still have needs and his general physical and in the eyes of some, his mental health, is not good.  Man probably doesn't need a carer right now, but he did need one when he came out of hospital.  However, because Adult Social Care cannot afford to pay for this and because Man did a good impression over the phone of saying that he was alright he did not get any care.

Everything therefore falls to certain family members.  They are happy to do what they can, but it is a tough situation!

The summary for Man is that because he can do a good impression of being fine mentally, but because he isn't well mentally, if someone doesn't keep on top of what is happening and what he is doing, he could have ended up being very ill and having to go back into hospital.  Probably for a long time.  Without family support I don't know where Man would be right now.

Both Lady and Man were very lucky.  They both had good treatment from their various medical professionals, doctors, nurses and so on.  No argument there at all.  However, there was simply not enough social care on offer for either of them.  Lady could have been home a lot sooner than she was, and Man could have actually had some help then and now.

I will share more with you about what you can do to help people like Lady and Man next week.  In the meantime visit the Royal Voluntary Service website here.

Thank you for listening!


Disclosure.  I was asked to spread this important message to you.  I have not received any compensation for this in any way.  I am telling you about it because it is personal to me and I think that it is important.


  1. I've got similar experience of both cases, it's very sad actually so I'm pleased that an organisation is taking some initiative and has launched a campaign. I shall pop across to their website and have a read.

  2. Our social systems fail...can you imagine where we'd be without volunteers?
    Jane x

  3. Amy, thanks for sharing your stories, and for being a volunteer with folks who really need your help. I think of the elderly often, as to whether they have family to care for them, or if they will have to give in to go to a nursing home. I have a friend right now who is wayyyy to young to be confined, but she had a stroke, and it may be that she will never be able to be alone again. sigh.

  4. Important issues Amy that need to be addressed by all of us, especially with an ageing population.

  5. Its so nice that you help with this. Its important and good that there is an organization to help and look out for older people. I will have a look at their web site.

  6. This is so scary. I have an older sister with health problems. She has a son living with her and is supposed to be taking care of her, but he isn't, he has done terrible things. My younger sister who also has health problems is trying to help. I live a 1000 miles away. I don't know how it's all going to end.

  7. Amy this is such a worthy cause, my mum lived in a brilliant community and really got back what she had put in when her health deteriorated, sadly she was not safe to live on her own in the end.....if only more communities reached out and helped those in need :) xxx

  8. Touches my heart deeply Amy. I was a social worker here in the states for almost 9 years before I hung it up to be a stay-at-home mom. I primarily worked in geriatrics (elder or senior care) and was the person working to set up services for those that needed it in their homes (as well as worked with folks in long term care to stay). It was so stressful with all of the budget cuts and limited resources at times. It could be so rewarding at times also, but the stress was too much and I chose to leave my career behind. Sad really. So we definitely still have our issues and needs for those resources and volunteers here in the states as well.

    Thanks for shining a light on an issue to try and make a difference. xo

  9. Growing old is scary, especially if you are living alone. A lot of old people don't have any relatives nearby that can look in on them or help take care of them. There's obviously still a lot of strides to be made in taking care of our geriatric population.

  10. I'm so glad that you are spreading such an important message Amy. It has happened all to much around me with my own grandparents and bottom line is there should be more in place for folks all over the world as people age. I look forward to reading more about this topic and what can be done to help! Thank you for being you!! Nicole xoxo

  11. I think how we treat our elderly population is a reflection on us as a society, and sadly in this society it is not the best xx

  12. Amy, good of you to spread the word. Life is so complicated for the elderly, and at a time of life when many can no longer handle complicated things so well. Sad.

  13. I find this very interesting. I'm a nurse in a Geriatric home in the states and we have similar issues. So many needs, not enough money or resources. Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to the rest of the story!

  14. Good on you Amy. It's so sad to see the elderly fall through the cracks of society. We will all be there one day so it's wonderful of you to bring awareness to this issue...Mel x

  15. This is an important post, it seems there is no end to the dangers our there and all we have is each other for protection and comfort.

  16. As you know I've gone through this same nightmare with my own parents. It was awful since none of their children lived in the same town, and we just were not able to manage with simply "keeping an eye" on them. My father couldn't/wouldn't dress, clean or feed himself on his own. Here we have social services that are great for initiating interviews and suggesting all sorts of remedies, but with first my mother and then my father, we never once had their actual physical help! Even after we got my father into nursing care, they still came and interviewed him to see that he was getting the right level of care that he needed. It was obvious to us and to the home that he wasn't, but you can't move into a new facility without the social services conducting another interview. It was eventually his children who decided it was time for more care, not the social services with their repetitive interviews that only made him angry. So it sounds like there needs to be a change in care both here and in UK. Less talk ... more action! All of this adventure doesn't make me feel confident about my own ageing and wondering what lies ahead.

  17. Good campaign. It's hard with older relatives. Thank God my parents are okay at the moment, but I dread the time coming when they need more, and I'm just thankful we live a bare 10 minutes away!

  18. The RVS does such a great job. This new campaign shouldn't be needed, but it is, so thank goodness for them :)

  19. This really resonates with me right now. Thanks for raising awareness Amy x

  20. With all the cuts social care has been badly effected, I have so many chronically ill friends who are really suffering because of this too, as well as the eldery you have my sympathy on this one. Our family have just been dealing with months of this for two eldery relatives, being sent home at night, medications not being sorted out or care in place. We need something to change and soon, as too many are suffering. xx

  21. Your examples highlight the problem of old people being released from the hospital without adequate support. Family members might live too far away to visit daily and make discreet check-ins. The "Home From Hospital" program sounds wonderful and desperately needed. People generally recover more quickly in familiar surroundings, but there are some elderly individuals who should never be sent home alone.


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