3pm Friday September 30th 2016.
RING RING RING RING
Vapid young female South London voice. Hello?
Me: Is that Social Services?
VYFSLV……..All calls are being diverted to us.
Me: And you aren’t Social Services switchboard then?
Me: Who are you?
VYFSLV: We are in another building. All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry.
Me: Well could you put me through to Katie Xxxxx. She’s my mum’s social worker and it’s really important.
VYFSLV: I can try.
Me: Well yes please, try.
RING RING RING RING
Me: Is that you again? You were putting me through to social services!
VYFSLV: All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry. We are in a different building.
Me: A different building? And you can’t connect me to social services? What are you? Some sort of dead end?
VYFSLV: I’m really sorry but all calls are being diverted to us.
Me: Could you try someone else? Try Rxxx.
VYFSLV: Well I’ll try.
RING RING RING RING
Me: You again.
VYFSLV: I’m so sorry. Really frustrating isn’t it. It’s been like this all day. All calls are being diverted to us and we are in a different building. Really sorry.
I was calling from the acute care ward at St George’s Hospital London SW17: Mum had been blue-lighted there after a suspected stroke. (We are finding out that she may have had a mini-stroke, but her acute collapse is as a result of an infection, probably urinary, which had penetrated her blood cells.) I particularly want to talk to Social Services, as this emergency is partly the result of the inactions of the carers employed by their agency. I don’t know what to do about Mum’s care.
But all calls to Social Services in my now Kafka-esque world are being diverted to a tired young woman in a different building, including the calls she makes herself.
I can see now, on the CCTV recordings of the two calls that the carers made to Mum, that she had been very unwell that morning. She was too ill to get out of bed at 6-7, and she refused her breakfast, both very unusual. They washed her and left her and turned the lights out. She had actually asked to go to hospital. On their return at 10.00 am she was still very unwell, could not get up, and they fed her her porridge in bed. I was unaware of all this but I phoned at 10.30 to ask if she was alright before I went out with a friend for the day. I was told no, she couldn’t move her left arm and could not get out of bed.
I went round, the carers were gone and all signs were positive for a stroke – tongue tracking to the right, lop sided smile, not able to lift left arm, confused and dozy. So I called 999, the paramedics arrived and wanted to know when this happened……..well it was before 6, which meant that the crucial 4 hour window for stroke treatment had overrun.
Social Services came in in April this year when I stepped down from my role as Mum’s carer, exhausted and overwhelmed. I found myself overseeing the motley crew of carers from a private care agency and their various disastrous interventions some of which I’ve blogged about before. The low point was when mum was thrown on the bed, her arm in plaster, by a carer who was frustrated at the lack of equipment supplied to help her. This went to the police, as my son had seen it on CCTV and Mum had complained to her support worker the next day. The matter was eventually dropped after weeks of police intervention. Other carers have just been rude or stupid and I have complained endlessly, changes are made, hope is created, and then one way or another, shit happens again.
For instance, on September 6th. Mum has just returned home after staying in a respite home, organised by Social Services – in some ways they are really very good to us, and credit where its due – so I could get a break.
The night call.
Two carers. Mum in the front room in her arm chair.
Carer 2 does not say hallo but stays in the hall.
Carer 1 sashays across to turn the telly off
Carer 1 How you like your stay in the home?
Mum, animated and friendly It was quite nice actually. They were very good to me there.
Carer 1 now on her way back towards Mum.
Carer 1 How you going to like living there?
Mum shocked. I don’t want to live there. I want to stay here in my home.
Mum is hovering above her seat, but can’t get up. The two carers stand looking at her.
Mum Well help me won’t you? You can see I need some help.
Carer 2 Oh, you want us to help you.
Carer 1 If you want us to help you, you must tell us.
This is sound only. Mum’s arm is broken and in plaster. I think Carer 2 is helping her out of her clothes.
Mum You are hurting my arm. Please be careful.
Carer 1 and Carer 2 stand watching as mum tries to get into bed
Mum Give me a hand will you? You know I need some help getting into bed.
Carer 2 gives her a shove and Mum falls on the bed. She’s not hurt but she’s really cross.
Mum Oh! You’re just fucking horrible you are. What’s the matter with you!
Carer 1 and Carer 2 leave and put the light out
Carer 1 I don’t know what was wrong with her tonight.
And they leave without saying good-bye.
After I complained and sent the videos up to the agency, these two women have become model carers, polite, and helpful. I think they were particularly rude to Mum at that time because the police were pursuing their colleague on her behalf, but who knows. It’s a tough job, underpaid, and fairly easy to get. They don’t get paid for their travel time. Generally they do as little as possible in as short a time as possible. I’m sure that’s not true for everybody. But it is for most of the people mum has had “caring” for her.
And now, after this particular crisis last Friday, I can’t even phone Social Service’s switchboard. So I try Rxxx’s email address which I had taken down by hand at a meeting a few days before. After about half an hour, and no reply, I think I have noted down the wrong address – it’s quite a complicated one, and so, battling with intermittent 4G, only accessible at the end bay of the Acute Ward, which is fortunately empty, I google her and send an email to the address listed on the official Trust web-site which differed by one letter from the one I had noted, and got this in return:
Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
Rxxx Social Services (her email address with one letter wrong).
4G has now disappeared and I have to leave Mum to go outside. It’s now 4.55 and I try the number I have for Occupational Therapy: Mum’s OT is nice, sensible, and surely, I think, will be able to put me through to a Social Worker. But she doesn’t answer the phone, and I speak to a very cross woman who clearly thinks I am stupid.
I try email again, adjusting that one letter from the official entry on the web-site to the one I had scribbled down, and get through to Rxxx after the end of the working day, only because she happens to be working late. She replies and phones immediately.
As of now Mum is still in St Georges, her acute care was phenomenally good, but she has suffered from some very indifferent care on the ward there too. Some amazing nurses and some who really couldn’t give a shit. But at least I can complain to the right people.
Mum might be going home today……………………I have to talk to Social Services this morning.