On 10th December I was admitted to Darent Valley Hospital with severe asthma attacks. Whilst there it to be the saddest and most enlightening place, for the 3 days I was there.
I was taken into the Acute Medical Ward, which is intended for people from A&E who will be moved on as soon as a bed is available in the most suitable ward. I was taken into what is classed as a mixed bay, I was later to find out that there was £1,000 per bed per night for those patients allocated a mixed bay unit. I also discovered over the next 3 days that most of the patients in the AMU were dementia patients, who were there because of either a fall, or some sort of infection.
Across, in the opposite bed was a lovely gentleman, who had been taken into A&E by his carer, as he had had a fall from his bed. He was suffering from Parkinson’s and dementia, but was on the first night accompanied by his lovely wife, who told me that they had never been apart in all of the 70 years of marriage, she was distraught at having to leave him. During my chat with her, I discovered that this man was in fact a war hero, he had flown as a rear gunner in Lancaster’s during the war, flying over Dresden and had also taken part in D Day. Over the next few days I watched this man deteriorate from chatting with his wife to spending most days asleep, finally becoming so dehydrated due to lack of staff being able to ensure that he was drinking and eating.
Next to him, was little Edna, who again had dementia, she was also there due to a fall in her care home, again Edna was left to her own devises, on the first night stripping herself of her nightgown as she had no idea she was surrounded by mixed patients.
The whole of the AMU, I later learned, was filled with dementia patients, we even had Eric who had been a night watchman and continued to do his duty, even in hospital, doing his rounds diligently on a nightly basis.
I watched these patients being given their meals, with no one assisting to ensure that these were eaten, one evening Edna had decided to pour her cup of tea over her meal, thinking it was gravy, it was at this point one of my daughters intervened and went to help her. In fact, on most days meals went uneaten, drinks sat on their sides going cold or not touched. No –one asked why they hadn’t eaten, they just removed the trays from their bedsides and carried on. I watched and cried as my ‘bay companions’ deteriorated instead of getting better.
Edna, having been assessed as ready to go back to her home, slipped from her chair that evening, making it impossible for her carer to take her back, leaving her in hospital for another unknown amount of days. My war hero opposite, just kept going downhill, calling for his wife in the evening, with no-one to soothe him or tell him it would be okay. The nurses were far too overloaded and busy and the care assistants had already been allocated too many patients for them to look after properly, they didn’t have the time to ensure that these patients were fed and watered correctly, they didn’t even have the time to assist those crying out for the nurse, or even a proper meal break.
I voiced my concerns to one of the staff, who advised me that all dementia patients in AMU was the norm and that any of those leaving would either be replaced or would return, just as soon as the private carers got fed up with them and they became too much to look after, they would be taken to A&E having had a ‘fall’ and admitted, giving the care staff some respite until they were discharged.
Finally, I spoke to my husband of my concerns, the fact that we, as a Country, needed to replace those private care homes, with local authority care homes with trained staff run by the state, his answer to me was Join the Labour Party and do something about it. I filled in my form immediately and am now a full paid-up member, hoping to get some change.