I READ in the Gazette about an inquest where a dementia-stricken patient, Mr John Cooke, was found outside of his care home wearing just his pyjamas by a passer-by who rang for an ambulance to attend to him. I immediately thought ‘Here we go, will we learn any lessons about this situation?’
The coroner at the inquest was absolutely correct when he stated his concern over the fact that Mr Cooke was able to exit the home. How on earth did this happen? He should never have been able to get out of what is meant to be a caring and controlled environment.
What is really appalling to me is that the home admitted that it had no care plans in place regarding his changes in agitation and confusion. Surely this is a must when providing dementia care, as often the patients are at risk of wandering?
The home went on to apologise for this, but this is a simple task that any normal untrained person in the street would know is a common sense task to complete.
Anyone starting a new job has effectively been assessed via an interview, so why would a patient not be assessed as a matter of standard procedure?
I agree with the coroner in regards to the expectation that if Mr Cooke was to die, it would have been in his bed, in the comfort of the home, and not in the undignified position of being collapsed in the street wearing nothing but his pyjamas, having left the home through an emergency exit without being noticed.
I believe the answer is always the same. A tragic loss occurs, sympathies are passed on to the family concerned, an inquest and review are conducted, apologies are given, but these types of tragic situations continue to happen.
Providers of care in these circumstances go on to say that they have introduced new procedures and staff will be retrained, or have different training but nothing changes.
There are obviously staff to patient ratios, as there are in childcare provision and even in our uniformed organisations such as Guiding and Scouting, but it is extremely rare to hear of issues in those types of organisations – yet we seem to frequently hear about issues in elderly care provision.
When are the Government and local council going to wake up and in effect, ‘over-provide’? What is wrong with going above the staff to patient ratio in order to ensure that this type of tragedy never happens again?
As a carer myself, I believe that all staff, including management, and even the catering staff, should be trained fully to ensure that the care they provide is of top quality, and that any signs of confusion or distress that can lead to wandering are immediately recognised and sorted out.
A friend of mind had a grandmother suffering from severe dementia, put into a care home in the 1980s, and she was able to exit the home on a cold day in November, wearing no hat or coat, wearing slippers, and get home via a bus in what was presumably during a rare lucid moment.
How is it, 30 years later, we are still seeing similar incidents?
Care plans should be about what is best to do for the patient, and surely by having more staff, less paper and the basic bed manner and total patient care approach, we would see supported patients, happier relatives and more people wanting to take up a role in a caring profession so that our elderly, the infirm and those at risks are put at the heart of our community and cared for in a decent manner.