As a ‘family member’ I believe to present a balanced view I should highlight some of the shortfalls in our role within the world of aged care and hospitals. Quite simply….on occasions, we get it wrong! Sure …”we are the family and we know best” is what many of us believe, and is often the family member mantra as we strut around the nursing home looking for any evidence of mistreatment.
Sometimes we don’t know best and we have to trust the staff and management of the aged care facility or hospital.
Example 1: I often demonstrate to nurses how to get dad to take medications and I was offended when a nurse questioned whether dad had swallowed his tablet. I said “once he swallows, he has definitely taken it, and it is his routine”. But the nurse persisted and wanted to check under dad’s tongue to be 100% sure. It was a couple of minutes or so later and I was really mad that the nurse questioned it. But as she checked under his tongue, there was his little yellow Oxazepam tablet hidden there like a prisoner in jail would do. I was staggered and embarrassed but most importantly said to the nurse “sorry…you were right”. Once again I learnt valuable lessons in that you have to be thorough at all times, follow procedure and be ready for a change of routine, as the dementia journey is ever-changing.
I also learnt to get off my ‘high horse’ and allow people to do their jobs without constant badgering. The nurses and carers have a tough job to do and they are forever under scrutiny. We need to treat care staff and nurses with respect and allow them to teach us some things as well. There will always be the odd person that is not doing the right thing or may just do their job for the money. But we must be mindful not to punish the thousands of other fabulous carers, nurses and doctors that are committed to patient care.
At the end of the day – when we visit our loved ones with dementia in a nursing home or hospital we only see a ‘snapshot’ of their life in care. In that 15-30 minutes of visiting time do we really know what is happening across the other 10,050 minutes???
If this worries you at all – then you could visit more often, meet the other residents and families, create relationships with care staff and nurses and discuss how your loved one is coping and interacting. Perhaps visit regularly every day for a week or so and turn up at different times including meal times. You will see the pressures, the system cracks and you may even get to know other people with dementia a little bit better. You will learn how to care for your family member and be more tolerant of others. Most importantly you will have a more informed understanding of dementia and all that comes with it and you may think twice before you go off at staff demanding ” I want better care for my mum or dad”.
This is dementia….