Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gran Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

The BBC reports on the short-fallings and neglect of people being cared for in their own home.

My Gran was taken into a home approximately 4 and a half years ago. She tripped and fell one night when trying to go to the bathroom. My Grandfather was unable to provide the care she needed and it was decided the best option was to put her in a home.

I have no idea how much money my Grandparents had at the time but I think they could have been described as good-to-well off. My Grandfather was high up and, as I learned at his funeral earlier this year, very well respected in the RAF, following his heroics during the war. Upon leaving the RAF he took up a position in a bank and continued to be savvy and careful with his money and investments.  They lived a nice life in a pristine home on the south coast. When my Gran was taken into a home, my Grandfather - Grandpa as he was and always will be - looked into what the State could offer in terms of support. Not much was the answer. In order for my Gran to receive any aid, their total net worth could not exceed - and I am guessing here but I won't be far off - £30,000. So Grandpa worked his entire life, paid all relevant taxes and lived his life within his own means. He continued to pay tax during his retirement on any earnings he received through his shrewd investments.

The Rules state that in order to qualify for State assistance, you have to wait until your net worth falls beneath the thirty grand threshold. You therefore have to liquidise everything you have including your home. Once the big pot of money reduces to the equivalent of a large family saloon with leather seats and a few optional extras, you have to hope that you have sufficient funds remaining to drive from your rented accommodation to the council offices to be assessed as to whether your wife of rapidly-declining health is eligible for state assistance.

When it came to being means-tested to assess my Gran's suitability for State aid, he refused. In all likelihood this was down to his characteristically private nature, not wanting his affairs finely toothed with a comb but I hold on to the idea that perhaps this reveals he was an international man of mystery with hidden millions. Possibly. Probably he felt it was none of the government's business.

So my Gran entered a home, funded from my Grandpa's pocket. I believe the figure is in excess of £800. Per week. I actually believe the figure is higher but am afraid to ask. So for 40+ grand a year, you'd expect quite a high quality of service.

Four-and-a-half years later Grandma is still there, completely in spite of herself. Let's make no bones about it; she doesn't want to be part of this world any more, aged 96. If she could get herself to Switzerland, she would. But she can't. Her legs don't work. She spends every day being lifted from her bed to the bathroom to her chair to the bathroom to her bed. The TV is put on loud on BBC1; partly to compete with volume of the TVs of her neighbouring inmates, partly to provide some form of distraction between the hours of 7am and 6.30pm, partly so the staff cannot hear the screams.

She has a buzzer with two buttons to call for assistance: one for every-day requests such as a cup of tea, one for emergencies such as needing to go to the toilet. Yet she is told not to use the emergency buzzer unless she is in real need of assistance. Presumably soiling yourself does not come high in the league tables of emergencies as she is told not to use it for that. It seems that the only categories where use of the emergency buzzer is acceptable are along the lines of heart attack, falling out of your chair, inability to breathe and death. All of these are coupled with the caveat that they must occur within reaching distance of the buzzer.

One of Grandma's main worries is that she drops the buzzer. She spends a great deal of time ensuring it is to hand. Luckily, her Home has procedures in place to alleviate this worry. Each inmate has a form
which must be signed, timed and dated every four hours to indicate that they have checked the buzzer is within reach of the patient. When visiting on Sunday, I noted that it was clearly instigated in the
summer and that the form had been diligently completed for the first four buzzer-hand-inspections. Three months down the line, they remain the only entries on the form.

A year or so back when visiting, Grandma realised that she was in need of assistance to get to the bathroom. She pressed the buzzer and we waited. And waited. 10 minutes pass and nothing happens. We suggest pressing the emergency buzzer but, pointing out that she is not cardiac-arresting, has not fallen, can breathe and is not dead; she stoically refuses. Walking down the Corridor of Noise - I believe it was the Eastenders Omnibus with staggered arguments dependent on analogue or digital reception - I found four carers deep in conversation next to a rapidly blinking light which indicated there was a non-urgent emergency in cell number 8. Upon request, one of them reluctantly replaced his tea cup, triumphantly laid his hand (four twos and seven-eight-nine of clubs) and ambled along to my distressed grandmother.

Forty grand.

There's more but I'll leave it there. The morals of the story are:
1. Spend all of your money before its too late.
2. Don't save for old age; it makes no difference whether you have money or not. Either way
you're going to end up sitting in your own shit while others play Gin Rummy.
3. Book yourself a one-way Easyjet flight to Geneva.

1 comment:

  1. Just worked out how to make a comment. Good post!


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