"A very bad experience"

About: Cumberland Infirmary

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Four years ago my wife (she was then 72) was formally diagnosed as suffering from vascular dementia. Since then, and with unstinting support from Cumbria Social Services plus a private carer and, more recently, from Eden Country Carers, she has been looked after at home. Her condition inevitably worsened and, on August 27, a further assessment by the Memory Services Unit at Penrith Hospital noted that even the most basic of cognitive tests were now beyond her. On the morning of Wednesday October 16 my wife suffered a fall in the bathroom: she was relatively inarticulate and with a significant cut/swelling on her forehead. The response by the paramedics was first-class and, after a flashing blue light trip, she was delivered to the A&E unit at Carlisle Infirmary. The CT scan was fortunately clear and, a couple of hours later, they phoned to say they were sending her home in a taxi. Heavy rain – at least here in Appleby – was accompanied by strong and gusting winds. My clearly distressed wife – stark naked except for a hospital gown and light wrap – arrived sometime later, sitting in the front seat of a taxi without any escort other than the driver – who’d been given the wrong address. Her clothes were in a carrier bag alongside her. The risks the hospital was prepared to accept our beyond belief: the possibility of a sudden reaction by a near-naked and clearly distressed elderly lady causing an accident on the M6 was clearly beyond their comprehension. My wife went to bed that evening suffering from nothing (outwardly) more significant than two black eyes – although vascular dementia meant that she was unable to articulate the discomfort she was so obviously feeling. I’d phoned the hospital who had confirmed that it was an order to give her a couple of paracetamol tablets. A formal ‘best interests’ assessment had, coincidently, been arranged for the following day, Thursday October 17. The conclusion, irrespective of the accident, was that permanent residential care, within weeks rather than months, was now unavoidable. Social Services had already established that a suitable room was available for her as a local residential care home. On Friday morning (October 18) I found my wife in bed in a semi-comatose condition. It was extremely difficult to get her washed/dressed and my initial reaction (that I now needed a carer to come in each morning) has disappeared well before I managed to get her into the lounge. Our Social Worker, along with my wife’s regular private carer, my daughter and one of the Doctors from Appleby medical practice arrived about 10:00: permanent residential care was now clearly essential and my wife was moved to the care home later that morning. Whether a link exists between Friday’s events and that of the preceding day is a matter of conjecture. Cumbria Social Services made a formal report to NHS about the condition in which my wife was sent home.

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Response from Cumberland Infirmary

Thank you fot taking the trouble to tell us about the concerns you have over the care of your wife. We are undertaking a thorough investigation into the care that she received and we hope to be able to provide the outcome to you in due course.

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