When my mum went into care the RN on duty would always phone me if she had an argument. Or hit someone. Or was feeling unwell. Late one Saturday morning I received a phone call saying she screamed when the AIN tried to put her top on. And cried and sobbed. They had no idea what was going on but were concerned so let me know they had called an ambulance.
I told them I would meet the ambulance at the hospital. Well intentioned and very sensible seeing as mum was demented, deaf and mostly non verbal due to her deafness. I was there within thirty minutes and while I was waiting I called Norma (their neighbour) and let her know and asked her advice. She said absolutely make yourself known. I had already done that but I could not get through to the people on reception or triage why I was there.
It is vital to be there for the demented person anyway but especially if they are deaf as it can be terrifying for them. And the actual staff looking after the demented person can have trouble managing their behaviours. I knew all this as I research. A lot. I am in Dementia groups on Facebook and read blogs by professionals and caregivers. But I just could not get them to listen.
After I had been there about an hour and had coffee and observed the layout of this particular hospital I went to the double doors to Emergency and knocked on them. A doctor was just coming out and she let me through and asked me who my loved one was. When I told her she said thank goodness as they could not communicate with mum. She showed me to the bed where my mum was, apparently in a light sleep. I sat and updated Facebook and various groups asking for prayer and waited until she stirred. Her first words to me, with a smile, were “now then.” Her welcome to her special loved ones.
I was able to chat to her, we used body language to communicate and I always had a notepad and wrote in big capitals to her. She could still read but not write things herself at that stage of her Alzheimer’s. The doctor and nurses came and they told me they had done chest X-rays and an ECG and everything seemed fine.
They were not happy releasing her though so we stayed. For hours. And hours. And hours. And meantime mum missed her Risperadone and her other lunchtime medicines. It must have been after 3pm that she started sundowning. And without her meds her sundowning was horrendous. They put the rails up on the bed to keep her in, so she simply shimmied down to the end of the bed like a monkey. My mum. Who had a bad back and bad legs and so much wrong physically was off that bed at least ten times in ten minutes. The patients and their relatives were looking at me in sympathetic horror.
I was so concerned she was going to fall and break a hip that I started walking her. Or rather she walked me, much like an owner walks a dog. She was ahead of me, dragging me by the hand, around the tiny area that is Emergency at Calvary Mater Hospital, Waratah. My legs are not good, I cannot walk for too long and cannot really stand much either and after about an hour of this the nurses got concerned. For me!
They said they would normally keep her overnight but if the carehome RN would keep an eye on her they would send her home in a Hire car. At their expense. This was accepted gladly because by then mum was thinking I was my evil witch of a sister and saying “what have you done now P&&&&.?”
Ha ha, so I knew how she felt about my sister. Brilliant. That was one thing to come out of this debacle. Once mum entered the door of her carehome she skipped, practically ran inside and sat down with her friends. The nurses and residents asked how she was and I told them she was home and safe and settled.
We can never underestimate the behaviours that can arise from pain in demented people. To be in agony, not know what it means as often our loved one has forgotten what pain is and then to be put in an ambulance and taken to an emergency ward without anyone they know? Horrendous for our loved ones.
I instructed them in future to let me know as soon as they called an ambulance as I would get a taxi there very quickly and escort her. Luckily it never happened again.
I was absolutely shattered and mum did not need me so I went home and slept most of the next day. The day after that I went to see her and took her for a coffee as it was her day for dad to visit. She looked fine, though a little drawn. And still had her ECG pad on. We had a lovely outing and we said goodbye to dad and his carer and stayed a while longer as mum loved watching the children come out of school. And she loved the tiny dogs as she used to have one. But my sister gave it away.
When I next visited mum a few days later she told me her ribs were hurting. I pressed on them and she screamed. There you go. With her history of severe arthritis and Spondylosis of the spine it should have been the first thing they checked. But as she had no advocate, no voice, she was not heard. It made me more determined than ever to advocate for those without a voice. I certainly used my voice, and my intellect and whatever other qualities I needed to muster so that my mum got the care she needed. She trusted in my care of her. I did not let her down. Am quietly confident that my mum knew I would look after her. And I know that I did.