Mrs A's dad and mum are in their 80s and had lived in the family home for 50 years. When Mrs A and her sister started trying to encourage them to think about moving or making home adaptations, mum was quite keen but dad wasn’t. But when illness struck, things changed.
“Last February dad was taken ill and was in hospital for three weeks. He was very ill and we had been prepared by the hospital that we may lose him,” explains Mrs A. “The very fact of dad being in hospital caused challenges, as mum is registered blind and relies on dad to get about in their home.”
Mum and Dad live in Chesterfield, Mrs A lives in Yorkshire, and her sister lives in Derby, so there were no family members locally. Mrs A has a full time job so this, along with the location point, meant there was a great deal to sort out and arrange in terms of visiting. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that her dad was put in isolation in the hospital, so they weren’t able to share out the visits among wider family members and friends.
Fortunately her dad got better. However, the care provided from this point was not so good, as Mrs A explains:
“The care assistants came and told him he would be going home tomorrow. This was not acceptable as the home situation was not suitable for his state of health. There were a number of steep steps going into the house and as he had been bed ridden for three weeks he was very frail.”
It was only when the family challenged nurses, after he had had a fall in the hospital, that they received help from occupational health therapists and physiotherapists, and he was also able to stay in hospital for longer.
“As a result of this, mum and dad decided they couldn’t stay in the family home and a bungalow came on the market.”
“We managed to get everything sorted and got them moved very quickly on return from hospital. The bungalow was a couple of miles away from the family home but was much better placed for local amenities and transport.”
The move has proved beneficial for Mrs A’s parents, who have moved into a really strong local community. They are also now on a bus route.
During this period of change, Mrs A and her sister felt someone needed to be there at all times, as the parents had been married 60 years and very much relied on each other. Both sisters took some time off work and also spent time arranging favours from friends.
“It’s so frustrating when the situation is happening miles away and you’re not on the doorstep. There is so much to arrange in this situation, particularly in the area of medical after care.”
“There was a strong element of incompetence and lack of communication between care providers. Questions such as where to get aid from and who is responsible were very difficult to get answers to.”
Looking back and reflecting, one of the most resounding thoughts for Mrs A is how do people manage when they don’t have someone to fight their corner and don’t have a strong support network?
“I would encourage people to engage in conversations on this subject with ageing parents and be brave enough to push the conversation and find out their thoughts. I do feel we could have been more proactive in this regard.”
In terms of her parents, things have settled down now and she is very pleased that her mum and dad have managed to do the house move together. It has opened up their social situation and made them more accessible. This gives comfort to Mrs A and her sister that people are dropping in on them.
What would have helped Mrs A in her situation?
“An information bank that people could source when they were discharged from hospital along with a real element of practical support would be useful. Talking to other people about this topic is a very personal thing but could be good, particularly after the event.
“Providing access to professionals and somebody to pursue some of the things for us would have been extremely welcome.”
The situation has also prompted Mrs A’s parents to review their affairs and sort the legal pieces out.