I only tend to see the bad nursing homes. I'm not talking about nursing homes where the patients are abused in the traditional sense, but rather where they seem to have simply been… left.
I went to one the other day, run by a large prestigious private healthcare company, it is clean and looks very pretty. But I'd rather die than spend my final days there.
The patient was 90+ years old and had been bleeding from her vagina since 9am that morning. I was called at 11am. They had left her bleeding for three hours.
I met her laying on a towel on a plastic bed, there was no sheet, and the only bedclothes she had was a single sheet across her body.
Her room was clean, but was empty of anything personal – there were no pictures, no letters, no ornaments. Nothing.
I looked at her drug chart. She was on two types of painkiller, but for the past five days, those, and her other medications were marked as having been 'spat out'. I'm guessing that this was because of her advanced dementia, rather than an informed refusal.
If she was spitting out her medicines, I wonder if she was also spitting out her food and drink. There was a bottle of drink next to her bed, but there was no way that she would be able to reach it. Looking at her skin, she did look dehydrated.
The 'nurses' all walked with the speed of arthritic turtles, and I had to struggle to find one that knew anything about the previous visit the patient had made to the hospital. Actually I struggled to find a nurse that knew much about anything.
'I don't know this drug', I said to one of the nurses testing her, 'what is it for?'
I knew what the drug was for, but the nurse didn't…
One of the care assistants sat on the end of the patient's bed. The patient seemed a bit distressed at this, but it was hard to tell as she was staring at the ceiling. The carer suddenly got off the bed, and this obviously caused the patient pain as she cried out.
The care assistant left the room, and I was left trying to comfort the patient, holding her hand and apologising.
I wondered what this woman had seen, what she had lived through. I could imagine her dancing in the 1930's, being married and having children (her daughter was on the way to the hospital already), raising her children while living through the war, maybe working as part of the Land Army. I thought about her husband, probably long dead, and the friends she had also probably outlived.
It always depresses me to think that some people end up in homes like this, where the care is slipshod, and her life is now just an accumulation of numerous small acts of omission.