Episode 2 of ‘Protecting our Parents’ was called ‘Who Decides’. Yet another distressing programme that asks the wrong question. In Kathleen’s own words : “the system is all wrong”. Kathleen is the strong-willed bed-bound 80 years old woman who is a problem for the NHS and Social Services . She wants to die at home and not a care home but needs 24hrs care. She also says: ‘The carers do their best but they are not here when you need them…make me feel like I am a nuisance …if I need help I need help. The carers are all right but they have no time …They should be paid properly. I do not think it is fair that have to pay for private care.” But the psychiatrist declares that her decision-making is impaired.
How can such an absurd situation arise? Urgent hospital admissions followed by discharges to the same inadequate situation. Hundreds of calls to the emergency ambulance, just to lift distressed Katherine up the bed. Official guidelines and personal wishes set in stone. Teams of well-meaning people and experts with their hands tied because of financial constraints and the conflicting interests of the diverse agencies involved. The pretence that the whole problem is not a question of money.
Where was the son in this situation? Was nobody capable of thinking outside the box and find a solution for this woman to be comfortable in bed and prevent her from phoning emergency services costing over £57000 over a few months? A technical solution that would prevent her from sliding down the bed ? But do these hundred of calls to the emergency services express a deep sense of insecurity since the husband cannot lift her up the bed anymore? what does this insistence of staying home with no quality of life and at all costs mean? The terror of the thought of the care home? Did this isolated, symbiotic couple see other people apart from the rushed carers? Was there no other way to finance the extra help that Kathleen needed?
On a positive note and in the absence of family members, it was good to see that the community social worker did work as an advocate for the couple against the medical experts’ assessment of Kathleen as being incapable of making decisions.