Dementia Centred

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By Professor June Andrews

July 27th, 2015

Families' Role in Hospital​

This week the Guardian has highlighted John’s Campaign,

At the same time a local radio phone in programme (well, by local I mean local to the nation of Scotland) tried to stir up some anxiety about a new plan in Fife, where nurses had constructed a checklist of things that families might do when visiting the patient, in the new expanded open visiting.

Open visiting is something that we expect for our children, but for some reason it seems hard to introduce it for older people.  Staff say to me “What about the old people who have no visitors?  Does this not just rub salt in the wounds of their loneliness?”    They seem not to hear what they have said out loud.  There are lonely people in hospital.  Those people see others getting a visit.  Surely there is a better solution than making everyone lonely.

Staff have also indicated that it is difficult to keep relatives well behaved and quiet.  I reflected on the fact that I’m a very senior nurse in my work life, but I become really compliant when faced with staff looking after my family.  Who decides that a particular relative is “bolshy”?  We need to work out why they are like that and what to do about it, not banish everyone else because we don’t know how to do crowd control.  In future this needs to be part of the job because families are now really part of the caring team.

And what happened at the phone in?  One woman described how her husband with dementia was calm and needed less attention if he knew she was nearby.  Another said that in the last hours of her mother’s life she rejoiced to be near her day and night, giving comfort, and making memories that would stay with her for ever.

Then a man came on saying that this idea is just a solution to staffing shortages and someone should deal with that and not put the burden on families.  Another said that this was a sign that the NHS was failing.

This is such a false fight.  If this is true and families have too great a burden and if the NHS is failing, we better recruit someone quick to keep patients company and help to feed and wash them.  And if it is not true, let’s do it anyway for the love of our nearest and dearest, and not be stopped by staff who feel they can’t cope, or people who want to make a political point.