Friday, 15 February 2013

Have we stopped listening to older people?


The headline in The Guardian on Tuesday 13th February said,

      “Francis Report shows we have stopped listening to older people.”

The Francis Report, published on 6th February 2013, sets out 290 recommendations for improvements in the NHS. This was in response to the neglect and unacceptably high death rate in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust hospitals.

One of those recommendations is that there needs to be more of a culture of care in the nursing profession.

I wonder how many experts it took to come to that conclusion. I hate to repeat myself but two years ago I was screaming - literally screaming because my Mum was being neglected! I was screaming about the fact that nurses in charge of caring for my mother, were not caring. From where I was sitting, standing or pacing up and down, they were not rushing around caring for other patients either. They were propping up their work station, chatting, drinking coffee, or they were nowhere to be seen. I accept that this was only one ward in a huge hospital but I saw it happening again and again and it infuriated me.

I blogged about my series of official complaints two years ago. I even got as far as two telephone interviews with the Chief Executive of the local NHS Trust. He had the grace to be shocked by my revelations, or perhaps this wasn’t grace. Perhaps it was political distancing. Was his reaction a part of the culture of fear highlighted in the Francis Report?
  • Let us stop, as a nation, being afraid to complain.

  • Let us start, as human beings, to listen sympathetically to the needs of others.

  • Let us hope that if we witness such neglect in the future, we can report it in the confident knowledge that there will be no repercussions on us or on our elderly, hospitalised relatives and that someone will listen, someone will care and someone will do something about it.


[I shall now step off my soap box and stop shouting... for the time being.]

39 comments:

  1. Rosalind, I recall your frustration when your Mother was in the hospital. Somewhere, workers stopped working at their jobs and they just show up to collect a pay check. I see more narcissism and entitlement ...... things I never noticed when I was young.

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    1. Life seemed to be less complicated when I was a kid, or am I wearing those rose coloured specs again?

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  2. Rosalind, I remember that very well and I felt so proud that somebody other than myself was also standing up against poor service.
    For the record, I love listening to older people - their stories fascinate me!
    Duncan In Kuantan

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    1. Me too. It's so sad the way we treat our elderly sometimes.

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  3. Where I live in the Midwest of the US, I see similar poor service. It can be a result of poor service, but it can result from service providers being overstressed due to lack of staffing, due to cutback in funding as well. Coming from a customer service background, I trained it, Complaining to the front line is not as effective as complaints to management, now days with accompaning video. Management often tunes out loudly frustrated but will listen to those who have something constructive to say. Service providers who are "busy" drinking coffee and gabbing, ought to be disciplined or terminated. There are lots of folks who would like their jobs.

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    1. The trouble here is that people (justifiably) fear recriminations if they complain. We are rarely so weak as when we lay helpless in a hospital bed.

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  4. It's shocking that our elderly residents are treated this way. Gone are the better days of the parents living with thier children in their declining years. My father visited China when it was first opened to visitors in the 80s. He said every old person had a job--even sweeping streets or caring for children. This would keep their minds active. Can we change the system at this late date?

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    1. I don't think we can change them to that extent but a little compassion would be good.

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  5. This is an issue all over. And it's kind of frightening to think, with all us baby boomers getting up there in years, what we will have to face. I am ever so thankful that my sister and I were able to keep our mother at home, even through the more difficult times of caring for her. We knew no one would take care of her like we could. It was only fair and right as she had spent her life taking care of us. I know this isn't an option for everyone. My heart aches for you and I hope things will change.

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    1. Yes, the thought of us baby boomers all being crammed into hospital wards with uncaring young 'care' workers doesn't bare thinking about.

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  6. You are so right Ros. I had a few complaints about my mum's care too,when I told the sister of the ward what my mum was telling me she disputed it and asked me if I was calling her a liar. My replky was,"Well my mother has never lied to me my whole life but I don't know how truthful a person you are"
    Mum had a broken pelvis and the were making her shift herself up in bed by her elbows and heels which were dripping in blood, they promised to put pads on her elbows and after three days they finnally did,she was nearly eighty and certainly not senile so could tell me everything.
    Mother in law had a stroke and the stroke unit was briliant, we were given updates on her progress and there was always someone there to answer questions. She was moved to the geriatric unti and everything changed,care was non exsistant and everyone avoided eye contact with us in case we asked any questions. We had secured a place for her in a lovely care home five minutes walk from all her family but it took the social worker three months to access her and during that time we nearly lost her,we were banging our heads against a wall until we demanded a different social worker. She had two good years in the care homne and was only let down once when she was admitted back to hospital with another small stroke, she was then stretchered back to care home ,to die and two days lkater under the the care of the home she was up walking again with her zimmer and lived another 10 mths. If you don't have a loud voice in our hospitals you are lost. Off my soapbox now.

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    1. Those incidents sound so similar to the troubles I had with Mum. How much longer will this kind of ill-treatment continue?

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  7. Not listening period! no one seems to listen. Perhaps that why texting gets so much attention. Visual communiction is taking over. Ears seem to be less needed now. It's all about what you see.
    As for changes I think that will not happen. Too many elderly are taling up space as they become the world's first batch ever of too many! The youth just can't take it.

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    1. And it's destined to get ever worse. Not a pleasant thought, is it.

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  9. That is so true! One of the smartest gifts I ever gave was a "Grandmother Remembers" book to my Grandmother, she is able to share her stories 20 years later with her Great Great Grandkids.
    Thank you for this post ...... now I'll go call my mother!
    Connie
    Peanut Butter and Whine

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    1. That is such a brilliant idea. Scarily I'm now the oldest in the family. I wonder if these blog posts would suffice as a Grandma book.

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  10. Sadly it's not just older people who are ignored by the so-called caring professions. There is a real culture of 'we know better than you so shut up and do as you're told' among medics. And if you have the audacity to ask a question.......

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    1. You're right. We all have to be able to stand up against them but sadly when anyone is in hospital they're not feeling strong!

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  11. Hear hear, Ros. Glas to hear someone being so impassioned about it. No wonder old people cling to their own homes and don't want to go into care or into hospital!

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    1. Staying at home with a care package is a whole different issue, one for another post. Suffice to say I've heard that carers visiting elderly at home don't care either.

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  12. Don't stop shouting about it - at least not until it's fixed. We need to ensure our elderly have the love, respect and care they so deserve.

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    1. I won't stop shouting but it would be good to see some positive outcomes once in a while.

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  13. Thanks for making these all-important statements, Rosalind. I fear for myself when/if I became an old lady in this country. I saw my Canadian grandma receive kind care during her last days. Other countries can get it right. There's no excuse for much of the world, especially the wealthier nations, to ignore and mistreat their seniors.

    xoRobyn

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    1. If I'm honest with you, each time I blog about this I think of my age and wonder if I'll be mistreated like that one day.

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  14. Oh Ros, don't get be started - my aunt is in hospital at the moment and, while some staff are wonderful, I can't believe the lack of compassion showed by others. I'm too close to it all to shout at the moment (and worried that the care she receives will become punitive if I make too much fuss) - so please carry on shouting and I'll join in as soon as I can.

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    1. Jo, that's what happened to us ,you are too scared to cause a fuss in case the outcome is not good for your loved one and you are labelled a trouble maker. There was even staff we knew we had to be extra nice to as we couldn't trust them, you know the saying ,keep your enemies closer. I think it's time cct was introduced at each patients bedside so family can keep track of them at home. I wouldn't be surprized if someone doesn't do it soon and blows the whistle. Hope your aunt gets home soon.

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    2. Jo I'm so sorry to hear that you're in that awful predicament. I admit that they initially took it out on Mum when I complained but as I worked my way up the hierarchy with my many complaints we started to be treated extremely well.

      Anne that is a brilliant idea. Even if there was one CCTV camera for each bay in a ward it would help. I'm going to tweet about t if that's ok with you.

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    3. Thank you both - Ros, tweet away - I've reached the 'strongly worded letter' stage, and communication has improved. But bedside care - I find it hard to believe the lack of compassion. We're at the waiting-for-a-bed in an assessment place stage, to see if going home will be possible (it may not) - anything has to be better than this.

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  15. I can't believe there isn't a culture of caring. I know nurses are rushed and busy, and perhaps not encouraged to or have time to spend with patients - but as a human, I would find it impossible to leave anyone in the states that have been mentioned in the newspapers.

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    1. You know, I would be thinking that people were exaggerating if I hadn't experienced it with Mum but they're not and it's true. These people have been dehumanised by targets and form filling culture!

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    1. I've thought long and hard about this. It's a scary one because we're all getting older but I think it's vulnerable rather than old. I'm not sure.

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  17. This is, sadly, too often true! My folks, 89 and 92, are often in the hospital/rehab, and it's a constant battle to have them get the attention they need. I know nurses are busy and overworked and underpaid...I get all that. But, some are simply in the wrong field. They're impatient and lazy....it's a shame. Yes, we must be an advocate for the elderly. thanks, rosalind!!

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  18. The treatment of the elderly in this country is shocking. Four years on, I still get depressed thinking about the care - or lack of - my father received in hospital before he died. I have a friend who works in a residential home for sufferers of dementia and the stories she tells are frightening.

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  19. It really is disturbing the way the elderly are treated, pushed out of mind, left on their own. Is it Japan where families live together, with the elderly staying in the same home until death? Why are we so far removed from that mentality?

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  20. My parents are in their late 70's now and both have health issues. My mom often says that she doesn't feel the doctors take her questions seriously because to them she is old and probably won't live too much longer. Sad. On the other hand, my dad has had some great in home health care lately. These community nurses seem very caring. I feel very sorry for seniors who don't have children to advocate for them.

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    1. My first experience of this disturbing issue was in the late 1990's when my father in law was admitted to hospital. I was truly shocked, there were no nurses to be seen, and when you did speak to them they were too busy to see to our needs there and then. The worse thing was at lunch time. He was unable to sit up by himself so his dinner was untouched and cold by the time we got there, it wasn't even cut up. It was dreadful. We complained but nothing much was made of it, maybe we should have shouted a bit louder.

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