We invited members of our community to share their experiences and perspectives of aged care services. Disclaimer: These stories have not been independently verified. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of Aged Care Reform Now and are shared for information purposes only.
My mum is in a nursing home two hours away from me. Her home have what they call pods which are 8-10 bed units that are set up like a home with lounge dining and kitchen. There are several of these “houses” which attach to the main center.
Last night my mum fell trying to answer the phone at the nurse’s station because there was no carer in the house. She was left lying on the floor calling out for help. The other residents where not physically or mentally able to assist her so she’s dragged herself across to the kitchen bench where she’s pulled herself up and clung to it until someone came back to the house.
Today I rang the aged care commission to find out if there was a regulation or ratio in regards to leaving residents on their own. Apparently, there is in hospitals but not in aged care facilities. I’m not upset with the staff as I was told the carer had to leave mum’s house to go assist another carer in another house. However, the thought of my mum lying on the floor calling for assistance and no one there to help her breaks my heart and does nothing to reassure me about the standard of care offered by these aged care facilities. But this story is nothing compared to what happened last year.
Mum was given Endone at 5pm and then a double dose of her evening medication. Her medication includes antidepressants Lithium and Rivatrill. The mistake was realised at 9 p.m. however on the advice of the registered nurse it was decided to just monitor her. During the night at 1 a.m. Mum had tried to get up and go to the toilet and fell hitting her head resulting in a large egg-sized lump. The nurses then stopped monitoring her because she told them she was tired and wanted to sleep. I being her EPA was not notified of any of this until the following day at 11:30 a.m. as it was decided that I would be contacted at more sociable hours. I was told that a registered nurse had given mum her medication and then a carer had accidentally given her the next day’s dose from the Webster Pack by mistake as the nurse did not usually give it. I was also told that the Endone and double up of medication could have caused Mum to fall. It was more likely because she was wearing only one sock and she has been reminded to wear appropriate footwear at all times (this is at 1 a.m. in the morning when she was supposedly being monitored).
The registered nurse deemed it ok to stop monitoring her at 1:30 because her vital signs were ok and mum had requested to be allowed to sleep (even though she had a large egg-sized lump on her head as well as a double dose of medication in her system). When I spoke to mum the next day after being informed of what happened she was very distressed, crying, disoriented, and hungry. She said she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. I rang her house and was informed that she hadn’t had anything to eat and asked for something to be given to her immediately.
When I asked if medical advice had been sort I was told they had contacted her GP. When I spoke to her GP the next day he said he had only just received a fax. I put in a formal complaint and the response was very defensive and as I mentioned blamed mum for falling because of wearing one sock and for not alerting staff that she needed to go to the toilet. The commission was able to help with getting the facility to apologise and change their policy when it comes to overdosing and monitoring. From now on they have said medical advice from either a hospital, GP, or poisons hotline will be sourced and that all falls will be monitored correctly.
I am still advocating for improved food and activities as all that is on offer now is box bowls bingo and happy hour and they are limited numbers. The facility manager promises a lot but does not follow through so I and my OPAN advocate keep pushing for regular updates. This has been exhaustive and it seems that more issues keep arising than get solved.
As I stated I am two hours away from mum and in a different state. My mum has deteriorated a great deal during lockdown and I’m not sure that the activities that may have once helped to stimulate her brain will now do anything to help her. A year ago she was looking for engagement in social, physical, and creative activities but I think that she has given up now. I wish there was an alternative but I have an injury and can not physically look after mum. I’ve thought of bringing her to a home near me but that would mean taking her away from the rest of the family and grandchildren as well as her familiar surroundings she has lived in for over 50 years.
All I would like is the confidence to know mum is being cared for clinically, physically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively.
Do you need support? OPAN provides free services to support older people and their representatives address issues related to Commonwealth-funded aged care services and informs people of their rights and responsibilities: 1800 700 600 or opan.com.au