"My mum's distressing last days"

About: Southend Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

My Mum was admitted to Southend University Hospital on 11th February with a UTI (urinary tract infection) and chest infection. Mum was 90 years of age, suffering type 2 diabetes for decades and vascular senile dementia. We waited in A&E from 5.00pm until 1.30am, until she was sent to AMU (acute medical unit), we left her at 2.00am on 12th Feb. She was admitted to Eleanor Hobbs Ward at 10.00am that day. I had been advised by staff at A&E to not continue giving mum the antibiotics prescribed by her GP for the UTI. When she got to the ward she was soaked in urine and faeces.

She was treated for the diabetes, as her blood sugar levels had been high for some time, diabetic nurses had advised insulin a year before, but the GP stated that blood screening (twice yearly) indicated that there was no significant kidney impairment and continued with gliclazide and metformin.

It took medical team 6 days to take a urine spec. for histology which indicated a UTI and they began treatment. During this time mum had been given sugar in drinks, as domestic staff asked her if she wanted it! (senile dementia!). We maintained full cover for all visiting times, and mum’s three main carers including myself, my sister and another family member reported any concerns, which were many, to staff.

We had found mum’s medication on the floor, as mum had not been supervised with this, no water given etc. We found her soaked in urine, faeces, other patients wearing her clothes, no slippers on her, insufficient clothing. The list is really endless.

One week after her admission, she was declared medically fit for discharge, pressure brought to bear for us to identify a residential home for her, initially for a four week assessment period, as she had sustained three falls and really her care needs had surpassed what we could provide. She had been living in her own flat.

On 22nd February mum deteriorated and we were called to the hospital as she had gone into renal failure. Mum died at 2.55 on 23rd February. It was not an easy death, peaceful in her sleep, but distressed and bloated; we wonder if she was suffering in pain. We will, fortunately, never know.

All I know is that, when she had been previously admitted in June 2008 for an infected toe, (which is another long story of lack of medical care) she was discharged in a far worse condition that she had been before the admission. She was discharged with awful diarrhoea, that took us 6 hours to control.

Mum died on 23rd February of a UTI and Diabetic ketoacidosis. I know what causes this, and I think that the signs should have been identified before. In my opinion, the antibiotics should have been administered before, and they should make sure that diabetics are not given totally dangerous foods and drinks.

We feel that the lack of care was stunning in its enormity, and I hate to think of what will befall any elderly patient with any form of dementia, unable to speak out for themselves. OK mum was 90, and not that many get to that age, but we feel that staff should care more for patients, and take on board concerns of family. We had been caring for her since dad died in 2000, and knew her well, also administering her medication, supervising diet etc. etc. We all cared, this is the thing, we mourn her loss. My sister cannot push the image of mum’s last hours from her mind. The attending doctor that night told us that they would not resus. which we agreed was the best thing, her pulse rate went below 50 and monitors sounded, but it took us running to staff to call them before anyone attended. It was a nightmare.

Mum is now at peace, we all wish that we could have done more, if not to save mum, then at least to have made her last hours better. I dread the day that any other members of our family, friends, or anyone else actually, as an elderly person gets admitted to any hospital where they will receive this level of care, be declared medically fit then die, from something that could, I think, be prevented.

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