Lets imagine that you are old and need a bit of care in your home – simple stuff, nothing too taxing, just a bit of a hand to help you wash when you wake up.  Maybe you need help with some of the fiddly little tablets you have to take.  Perhaps you just need someone who’ll help you keep your flat tidy.

Then, for the sake of argument, lets say you’ve had a bit of a fall – nothing too serious, it’s just that your legs are starting to get a bit weak, and you don’t want to use the walking frame the hospital has given you.  You are lying by your front door – so when you use your community alarm you are able to let your carer in and then the ambulance people.

The ambulance people quickly check you over while you are on the floor – they let you know that they don’t want to pick you up if you’ve broken your leg.  So you let them examine you, and finding nothing, you ask them if they can just put you in your normal chair by the television.  You wonder why the ambulance crew are tutting at your carer for not at least putting a pillow behind your head while you were stuck on the floor.

The ambulance crew help you up and put you into your favourite chair.  As you aren’t hurt by the fall you don’t want to go to the hospital – you’ll only sit in the department for several hours before some young doctor tells you that you should be using your walking frame.  It’s easier to sit in your own flat.  The ambulance people seem pretty nice though, and they want to give you a full physical check up to make sure that there is nothing obvious that would cause you to fall.

You tell the ambulance people that you’ve been having a few falls, as your legs have been getting a bit weaker recently, but that you get around alright and that you have the community alarm button around your neck should you get into any trouble.  The ambulance people try to persuade you to goto hospital, but you refuse again.  One of the ambulance people checks various pulses and pressures and sugars and heart tracings before agreeing that you can refuse to go with them.

The ambulance person is looking around your flat and tutting at the carer again.  He doesn’t like it that as he walks around he is making a crunching noise as he crushes your tablets which are strewn all over the carpet.  It’s not your fault that you sometimes drop them, I mean, it’s not the carers job to make sure that you can take your pills.

The ambulance man then tells you that as you don’t want to go to hospital, would you mind if we got your GP out to see you.  You agree and the ambulance man says that your GP might be able to arrange to have handrails put on your walls – it sounds like a good idea as you really don’t like using the walking frame.  You tell the ambulance man your GP’s phone number but he doesn’t want to borrow your phone.  He tells you that if his Controller phones the GP then the call is recorded so if the GP promises to come out then they darn well better.  You wonder why the ambulance man is so distrusting of GPs.

The ambulance man then disappears for a bit into the kitchen, he’s talking to the carer before she leaves.  You can’t hear what he says, but his voice seems a little forceful.

The ambulance man comes back and asks you one last time if you’d like to go to hospital, you refuse and the ambulance man reminds you to use the walking frame for getting around – and also to make sure that you have your emergency button on you at all times.  He tells you that he is only a phone call away.  He picks up his equipment and prepares to leave.

You’ve enjoyed chatting to him and his partner, so you try to keep up a conversation – the only person you regularly see is your carer, and she doesn’t talk to you much – she hasn’t said a word to you while the ambulance people have been here.  The ambulance people stay and have a chat with you, but they can only stay ten minutes.  But at least those ten minutes is ten minutes of conversation you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The ambulance people wave goodbye to your carer as she walks out the door without saying a word.

Ten minutes later you wave goodbye to the ambulance people, and you are left on your own until the evening carer comes.


Downstairs in the ambulance, an EMT’s heart breaks just a little.


17 thoughts on “Patientside”

  1. I was in a similar situation last weekend with my grandfather. He is determined to stay in his own home & resists help from carers. We came round to find him on the floor and he insisted we ring the ambulance.Despite it being a Saturday night, the two ESTs could not have been nicer. They got him settled in bed, checked him out, had a chat with him, made him laugh. I could not have been more impressed . Or humbled.

    I work in the caring professions and know how difficult it can be to keep the human touch when you're tired and busy.

  2. oh Tom.Look, you're making a difference, you are.

    You know that sometimes I'm in the same position as your little old lady there, and I promise that “only ten minutes”, smiles and a little chat and a kind word and paying attention to her wishes, will be something for her to think about and make her smile for days if not weeks to come.

    Meanwhile I'm feeling glad that although I'm alone in my flat, then rather than a community care button I've got a mobile phone in my pocket that easily dials numbers for my mum, sister and boyfriend, all of whom have each others numbers and know what's going on and are personally involved with me.

  3. Heartbreaking, yes, but also heartwarming that you can still identify with the man even after seeing the same thing over and over.

  4. I PROMISE that when I do care work I will talk to the clients/patients. I really hate to see people like that in so called 'care' work

  5. It's hard when you see that happen. Am just glad that most of my gran's careers are nice people who tell my parents if something is wrong with her. this is in Newham as well Tom, so just to let you know that they all aren't bad.Just remember you gave her some happiness and you will give it to someone else today 🙂

  6. Tom, I'm so glad that there are people out there like you who actually give a shit. Not that all carers and GPs are bad. It just makes me really sad when I know that the old ladies at work will take as long a time as possible for me to serve them their stuff as they wont have anyone else to talk to for the whole day.

  7. This relates to your previous post about struggling with words. You do realize you're one of those rotten buggers, right?

  8. I don't understand why you would be in care work if you don't care. You did all you could. It's sad, but at least you can be proud of doing your job well.

  9. It's not just some carers who shouldn't be in the job. I came across a few nurses while my partner was in hospital recently who would have made better prison wardens!

  10. So sad, that people who helped build our countries, mold our futures are kept like that. We've got some pretty horrid old folks homes in North Carolina, places where the caregivers really ought to be dragged out into the streets and shot for disdain they show the elderly. You're a good guy podnah,dont let anyone tell you different.

  11. You're definitely one of the good guys and I hope there are more of you out there than the other kind.My mother fell and broke her hip in a 'care' home. The 'care' assistant phoned my sister and asked me to go and pick my mum up in her car and take her to a 'walk in' centre! They only phoned the ambulance when we arrived and TOLD them to. Their excuse was that ambulances won't take unaccompanied residents. The ambulance staff said different! The complaint is ongoing!

  12. It is a tough situation to come accross and one I struggle with on a regular basis. Perhaps the best situation for this old lady/gent would be placement in a low care nursing home where he/she can at least have some social contact and regular (if often perfunctory) care? I come accross many old folk who really should'nt be at home by themselves and it can take something quite drastic for them to finally leave home (eg. #NOF).

  13. as a social worker, much of my days are spent organising 'care packages' and 'carers' such as these…and my heart breaks a little every time a story like this confirms my suspicions about what most people actually get as a service. Carers particularly agency carers, are often asked to see an inordinate number of clients in a shift, with very little training or feedback on their performance.

  14. So sad, and so true. That “carer” needs to change her name to “uncarer”. Is there any way to report her?

  15. I feel sad that all we can offer is 10 mins to hear a life story – and spend 20 mins trying to get a d**khead drunk into an ambulance because they have 'bumped' their head. And another thing – how many 'pick up off the floor' and 'no lifting policy' jobs do we have to go to before someone takes on board the shambles of 'care in the community'? These are the ones we see………

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