current affairs

A family experience of poor elderly hospital care

When I read the recent BBC article ‘Basic care given to elderly in hospital alarming,’ it rekindled much of the anger and disappointment felt by me and my family last June when my 90-ye

When I read the recent BBC article ‘Basic care given to elderly in hospital alarming,’ it rekindled much of the anger and disappointment felt by me and my family last June when my 90-year-old Grandma was a victim of hospital care.

To say she was a victim is not an exaggeration; she went into hospital with a stomach pain, potentially a gall stone, to be discharged with ‘hospital pneumonia’ and a list of problems longer than her walking stick.

The idea that the hospital hosts its own brand of pneumonia did not only strike us as unusual, like a therapist dishing out guns, but raised a lot of questions about how my Grandma was treated during her two week stay.

I was born when my Grandma was 70 and for my whole life she has been as independent and able as the next 21 year-old; cod liver oil tablets every day and a walk on the treadmill are just a couple of ways she has always looked after herself.

So last June when I landed back in sunny England after a post university graduation holiday, with a hangover that would make a raging alcoholic think twice, I was distressed to find that my fighting fit Grandma was hospital bound in tremendous pain and unable to walk.

Every second of visiting hours was filled by our oversized family as we all took it in turns to crowd around her hospital bed. Everybody thought she was in the right place and would soon be back around her kitchen table, rollers in, teeth out and pinny on.

As time went on the pain remained and the same questions were asked to the staff – ‘What is going on? Are you operating? What is wrong with her? When will we know? How long will she be in here for?’ We didn’t know the answers and alarmingly, neither did the staff.

After a few days one particularly vacant nurse told us that ‘the problem is resolving itself there will be no need for an operation, she should be out soon.’ We were happy, no 90 year-old should be operated on but a week later she was still hospital bound and beginning to deteriorate.

It was at this point I started to notice the ward for what it was, a haven of germ-infested old folk who were spluttering their bacteria right into the passageways of my already in pain Grandmother. All the windows were tightly shut, the beds cramped close together and a smell of illness lingered in the air.

One day we arrived to find my Grandma upset. After experiencing distress in the night she had called the nurse for assistance and was then forced to wait for over 25 minutes for any attendance. 

Later that same day, we had to insist to a passing nurse that oxygen was needed. Her lips were turning blue, the oxygen bottle had been empty all night and she was in desperate need of more.

Most sickening, was how attentive the staff became following an enquiry from my NHS working mother to the Director of Care to alert her to how my Grandma had increasing health problems by being kept bed bound in hospital, as well as being neglected at times.

‘Are you alright? Anything you need?’ We could all see through it. 

The hospital visit did nothing to help apart from dish out a bit of pneumonia and after a tough few months she is finally getting back to normal now, treadmill and all.

But if this is how the NHS are treating our elderly what about those who haven’t got their wits about them? What about those who haven’t got a nice home to go to? What about those who haven’t got a family to care for them?