The day everything changed!
I was contacted recently by the son a client, whom I had dealt with around 18 months ago. My client has just passed away.
My client was very elderly and frail at the time I was instructed to assist the son, who was told that his mother needed to go into a care home. She had had a fall, was admitted into hospital and there was concern for her safety if she were to return home again.
The hospital called a best interests meeting and this one was much small than others that I have attended, as there were only around 6 healthcare professionals, often there are around 12-15! The reason for the size of the meeting was because the son was health and welfare attorney. Nevertheless, the professionals had concerns about going home.
The chair of the meeting went around the meeting attendees, starting with the professionals at this meeting and asked their opinion and one by one they all said that this lady needed to go into residential care, until it was my turn. I said that I whilst I heard what the professionals wanted, I recognised that the decision maker was the son and my real interest was therefore what he wanted. He said that he wanted what his Mum wanted, so I asked what that was – to go home and be with her dog. I said that was what all attendees to the meeting should work towards then and de-risk this option as far as was possible. And once these discussions got underway, it became clear that the professionals had not really appreciated what was in place already and so how little additional support would be needed to make this possible.
My recent phone call was to say that Mum made it home, lived a further 18 months, was happy and got to spend that time with her much loved dog. She was regularly visited by family, knew she was at home and knew she was loved. She lived as well as was possible and became very poorly about 2 days before she died and she died peacefully at home in bed, with the dog in the house, having sat with her head resting on this lady’s lap all afternoon, before she went to bed for the night, but never woke up. She died happy and peacefully.
What the son told me was that meeting was the moment that everything changed, that he stopped being under pressure to make decisions that Mum wouldn’t have liked. Although he was sad that his Mum had died, he wanted me to know how grateful he was that her last months were able to be spent how she wanted. I was very glad that he phoned and let me know.
All to often it is easier, often for medical professionals, to keep someone in hospital and frantically look for a residential care home, rather than ascertain the risks, address them and combat them. Social care is underestimated and is a crucial link to keeping people at home – where most people wish to be. Technological advances, robust capable agency carers (people who care not just carers) and regular monitoring can prevent unnecessary moving to residential accommodation. Relatives can be overwhelmed by the dominant, authoritarian approach of some professionals – lets not forget relatives are professionals too – in their own right as nearest and dearest.