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How do you handle elderly parent in hospital (long term)?

(14 Posts)
AhAgain Wed 04-Oct-17 22:47:50

My mother m has just completed her second week in hospital and will be on some sort of hospital/unit/care for probably another 8 I would guess. Poor thing, she has been through the wars: she has a number of chronic health conditions, then had a very very nasty fall (hence 8-10 weeks in hospital care).

Anybody else (staff or the occasional other visitor) says how positive and invest she is. Needless to say she saves all of the complaints etc for me. To everyone else she doesn't have much pain (well managed) and doesn't seem confused. I get that she has been in terrible pain all day, hardly slept at all last night, hasn't had any painkillers in 5 hours (check with nurse and she had some 45 minutes earlier), doesn't like this nurse or that nurse (they are rude and throw her around), they haven't completed the (very particular) clinical tasks either at all or properly (which is very important). And on and on and on. She often mis-hears me, then has a go at me for repeating it. She keeps threatening to dig into a secret stash of painkillers (think that I have ensured that there aren't any - she is on various maximum doses from the hospital) She also keeps talking about getting out of bed by herself (they have side bars on because she is at massive risk of falling again and massively unsteady on her feet - can't move without an adapted walker and assistance). Every helpful suggestion/offer is turned down. Anything I show her that she can do herself is met with a "don't like it"/"don't feel like it"/"can't do it"/etc.

I am an only child. Have just cut visits down from everyday (diffficult with a demanding job, a family and living an hour+ away from the hospital) to four times a week.

I appreciate that she is down and really unhappy (she is 79) and wants control and independence back. But am finding the hospital visits difficult. We have run out of things to talk about, anything I ask her about is answered with negatives, and I am increasingly terrified that she will do herself a mischief 🙁 (so am feeling pretty anxious most of the time).

How do you cope with this? Realising we have a looooong way to go 😳

CMOTDibbler Thu 05-Oct-17 19:28:42

I haven't had my parents in hospital for a long time, but they have both had lots of admissions, and my dad is a grumpy git (mum is now mostly non verbal, but went through a very trying stage) and I have to deal with all of their carers etc.
My only advice is to try and glide over all the complaints - rotate through some stock phrases like 'dear me' 'oh dear' 'that's a shame' etc so that you don't engage with it all, but she feels listened to. Blame everyone else - the more senior the better - for things she doesn't like. For instance the bed sides have to be up as <her consultant> says they must. If she says that <important task> hasn't been done, you'll take it up with Sister X (or even better Matron if they have clinical matrons). You don't have to say anything to anyone, just tell her you will!

Can you take a magazine or photos on an ipad in for her to look at with you? I often while away the time with dad by channelling one of those annoying people who make you look at holiday snaps, and giving him a detailed run down about Karens chickens, and he wouldn't believe how this one here did blah, blah. Oh, and can he see that plant, well, her mum bought that from......

After 30 minutes (or whatever time you've decided you can cope with), leave with a jaunty phrase about getting back to do the kids tea/iron and then go and talk to her named nurse and dob her in about planning to get out of bed etc.
Then go and give yourself a small treat. We now have a tradition of going to the Starbucks at the services near the hospital for a coffee to unwind before driving home. I also know every possible thing to do en route between my house and theirs/their hospital so when making a visit shorter than the drive time I can do something else as well

AhAgain Thu 05-Oct-17 23:50:00

Thanks CMOTDibbler - seems like sage advice that I should take 😊

I need to let go and lie a bit. I take things seriously and always try to resolve her problems and it's getting quite stressful.

She has also developed at awful xenophobic streak recently and has something against most of the foreign origin healthcare works and freely voices it to me (I hope to goodness she doesn't to them!!!). I find this really quite upsetting: I think it is very very wrong, I find it so sad that she is doing it and my husband (of 20 years) is never British born or white! Basically anyone who doesn't agree with her or challenges her is nasty and she is quite happy to blame that on their ethnicity/nationality.

Unfortunately also mum has been loosing her sight for the past 8 months: so iPad/photos/magazines are pretty much a loss. Anything visual is hard. I am so out of ideas.

I tend to go for 2+ hours (it often takes me almost 1.5 hours to get there and 45 minutes to get home again). I so worry that she is lonely and isolated (single rooms - good for privacy, bad for loneliness).

Latest problem is that she may (goodness knows how) have a secret stash of painkillers that she is taking in addition to (and without the knowledge of) the hospital ones.

CMOTDibbler Fri 06-Oct-17 10:01:03

TBVH, I think you should ask her named nurse about getting a dementia assessment done while she is in hospital as it sounds like theres a few warning bells going off - of course it could be an infection, but its worth exploring as it will have a big effect on how she could cope after hospital.

How about taking a magazine/bulb catalogue with you so you can gush about it 'ooh, I saw this and thought of you, so lovely, you'll never guess..' and read bits to her?

Have you checked her cupboard to make sure theres nothing in there tablet wise? You can have a good rootle on the principle of checking theres nothing to take home and wash, but it could be made up. But let her nurse know so they can take a particular look when they change her bed just in case.

2 hours is a very long time to fill though. How about doing her nails or setting her hair (I found a great shampoo cap thing on Boots that means you don't need to get her out of bed to wash her hair).
Take some knitting or sewing so you can talk about that, or it's starting to get close enough to take christmas cards to write for her - you can do a long, chatty piece in them so you get two jobs in one go

ChristmasLightLover Sat 07-Oct-17 20:19:06

Ah Again - lots of good advice here. Audible - as an app - on an ipad or kindle would work for her. And magazines like "hello" - more photos than text could work. I have now taken to putting my laptop in my bag and tethering it so I can watch match of the day with my Dad. He has dementia and I find it hard to do 2 hours of not understanding him.

Christmas cards - such a good idea. Argos and other catalogues so she can choose gifts for people - and herself for Christmas.

On the way in, I stop at the M and S food to take Dad apples, fruit trifle and other food - he's now at the eating for pleasure stage. I can't eat with him as his messiness puts me off eating. I wish it didn't. But that's where we're at. How does food work with you taking it in? Getting her treats?

When my Dad starts with the "are you local" questions I intervene with a sharp voice. He stops. He can do it when I am not there. Not when I am there.

As for complaints, I've sometimes made notes then gone and got someone to sit with us and ask if things are true - embarass her into being truthful. "Because it would be awful for me to make a formal complaint and someone lose their job if it wasn't needed". That might bring some clarity to things?

We're here. Share. Keep writing and talking. I find sharing here and asking for ideas helps. I see another month for us with Dad in hospital so you're not alone, if that helps.

poisonedbypen Sat 07-Oct-17 20:23:32

I haven't read the other answers, but just to say that I used to read short stories to my dad. We also looked at photos & I took the paper in & talked about the news, or sport when he was up to it. The best was reading to him though.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Sat 07-Oct-17 20:27:30

Would it be worth contacting the hospital chaplain to see if they (or a volunteer) can make an extra effort to visit her as well?
Also I would mention the pain issue to her named nurse, it can't be an uncommon occurrence, and the confusion/odd behaviour as well-sometimes this can be due to a hidden urine infection in the elderly, but there may be other possible causes. It's very tough on the close relatives as well as the patient flowers

picklemepopcorn Sat 07-Oct-17 21:47:50

I wouldn't worry about some of it- let the hospital worry.

For your visits, take her something she'll like each time and will remind her of you. A nice hand cream, handkerchief, perfume, nightie etc...

When people are being unreasonable, there is no point trying to put them straight. Just make lots of sympathetic noises. Is there anyone else that can visit once a week? That may help give you a day or two off. Take your children if you can- that's a nice distraction.

Icouldbeknitting Sun 08-Oct-17 09:17:27

I am in the same place at the moment. Mum was fit and well until she took a dive in the garden and went into hospital but is now frail, baffled and vomiting daily.

The confusion could be an effect of the pain meds, a few years ago mum had a plate in her shoulder and came out of hospital a different woman. Once she reduced to paracetamol and ibuprofen she was her old self again.

I am resigned to feeling guilty permanently. I'm either guilty because I'm not visiting enough or guilty because the laundry is backing up. I;d be better if I could find a way to be in two places at once.

Loopytiles Sun 08-Oct-17 16:43:06

Some hospital care is poor, and some staff can be abrupt or downright nasty.

Scary and distressing to be in hospital with pain and fear, no autonomy or peace, no ordinary routines, food or privacy, can be horrible. Sleep deprivation.

You are doing as much as you can for her, and can only listen, raise any big issues with the staff (eg letting them know her pain is bad despite her brave face to them), and look after yourself so as to be able to continue to offer the support.

Where will she be living when well enough to come out of hospital?

AhAgain Sat 14-Oct-17 10:05:31

Thanks everyone. 3.5 weeks after her fall and things are beginning to get a bit better: she is physically doing better, the pain is reducing a bit (not surprisingly) and her confusion/difficulties is getting better too. Talking to the doctor: the confusion etc may have been contributed to by her self dosing on extra painkillers (too much codeine).

She is still on the ward and awaiting transfer to an NHS rehabilitation unit. I don't know how long for. I am currently tryinto sell her flat and lease purchase an assisted living flat. However there may be a gap between the too, in which case I have found a really nice private nursing home with spaces (can't come to me - we have stairs, I work, we have a 7.5 year old).

Icouldbeknitting Sat 14-Oct-17 13:00:34

Thank you for the update, I did wonder how things were going for you but didn't like to ask in case it wasn't good.

My mother shipped out to a rehab unit just over a week ago. It was a really good move, they've got her eating again, she has her own room and bathroom and sees the physiotherapist most days. The occupational therapist is seeing her next week with a view to a home visit to see what they can do in respect to making life easier (I think she will sell up because she's finally accepted that the garden is going to kill her)

The difference in treatment is that in hospital she was an interesting knee but here she is a person that needs to go home. The vomiting and weight loss wasn't of any concern in hospital but the first thing they did when she moved was weigh her and get the GP in to prescribe something to stop the nausea. Their whole focus has been on a return to normal life.

"Intermediate care" is the name, for anyone reading this later who finds themselves in this place.

Fluckle Sat 14-Oct-17 13:10:21

Just wanted to say hello Ah Again as we were in virtually identical position with FIL after a nasty fall. As DH also an only child we understand your situation all too well!

There's some great advice on here, stuff that might be useful for him too, even though he's now home after 4 weeks in hospital. He still has good and bad days, hospital seems to have buggered his sleeping and he's still confused on some days, but 6 weeks after the fall things have improved, though his existing health issues plus this mean he's basically disabled now. There's some life changing decisions that have to be made shortly, he's in total denial about these, but rather than arguing about it we are letting the realisation dawn on him in his own time.

picklemepopcorn Sat 14-Oct-17 14:00:27

You've made loads of progress, well done!

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