"Many hospitals have not taken simple steps to lessen the distress and confusion which dementia sufferers' often feel on being somewhere so unfamiliar – such as making signs large and easy to read, using colour schemes to help patients find their way around unfamiliar wards and not putting family mementoes such as photographs nearby."


"There is "an urgent need to improve the experience of people with dementia who are cared for in general hospitals", for example by employing enough staff and ensuring they have both the right skills and time to care, Carter added."

Taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/16/hospital-staff-dementia-patients in today's Guardian

I'm both sad and pleased to read this. I'm sad because it is the situation that Mum could easily find herself in again and that worries me. I'm pleased because an acknowledgement of the problem is, at least, a step in the right direction.

In February my Mum, who has advanced dementia, was admitted via A&E after having had a seizure. My Dad had died the day before so I wasn't exactly what you'd call "all over the situation".

Mum lives in an excellent care home who have carefully prepared "patient passports" so that if any of their residents need a hospital stay all details are available. This includes details of drugs, capabilities (i.e. can't eat unassisted) and recent history (i.e. slept well, didn't eat breakfast)

The care home called me to say they were sending Mum to A&E. And that's where I found her. Without her patient passport (the care home had sent it but it was mislaid between ambulance and A&E). I rapidly discovered how little I knew about Mum's drugs, and of course, couldn't answer the simplest details about her morning routine or even what was "normal" for Mum as the unfamiliarity of the situation had reduced her to lying, curled up into a small ball holding on to the rail of the bed with all her might. This was at 10am.

As the day progressed we had to repeat the little information we knew time and time again to different people. She was taken for a scan and I couldn't accompany her into the room. Instead I had to sit outside the room listening to the two nurses asking her to move this way or that, to stay still all the while knowing that she wouldn't understand the instructions and being prevented (for valid, safety, reasons) from assisting her.

At 2pm she was admitted to the Acute Assessment Unit where she at least got a proper bed and more assessments were made. Some of these assessments were ones that Mum wasn't capable of because of her condition which seemed to frustrate the assessing doctor. It took until about 4pm for us to finally be able to fill in forms for her and make them understand how dependent on care she was. One nurse got it and understood and she was the only reason we finally left Mum. In retrospect I should have stayed with her as long as they'd let me, helped feed her, made sure she was looked after etc but, as I say, my Dad had died the day before and I wasn't capable of thinking straight.

That evening and the following morning I couldn't even get an answer from the phone number the hospital had given me. I couldn't find out how she was, or even where she was. In the end it was the Funeral Director who tracked her down - she had spent the night in the endoscopy unit which is where we found her ready to be transported back to her home. I travelled in the patient transfer vehicle with her and again there were no notes about her and her condition or even why she'd been admitted. The lack of joined up communications was incredibly distressing, especially when you consider that they are dealing with someone who is vulnerable and completely dependent upon the care of other people.

The minute she was back at her care home she visibly relaxed a little. Her surroundings are very important to her. They provide comfort through familiarity. The staff immediately welcomed her back, cleaned and changed her and made her some lunch (again, no notes were available as to when she'd last eaten).

This is fundamentally the reason my Mum still lives in Hull. Familiarity of surroundings and of carers. It is just so important to Mum, and presumably others in a similar situation and should not be overlooked or undervalued.