My mother Madge, 90, who has mild vascular dementia – she knows who the prime minister is but can’t remember what she had for lunch – has had several health problems since living in care homes. Most have gone undetected until I have noticed and alerted staff, after which a doctor has been called or, more usually, she has gone straight to A&E. Her undetected health problems have ranged from gout to acute urinary infections to a vascular dementia “episode”, the equivalent of a small stroke – it was me who noticed her speech was slurred and her motor skills impaired, not her carers.
The four care homes Madge has lived in since 2005 have all sent residents alone in ambulances to hospital, which means those with dementia or severe memory problems – 80% of all care-home residents according to research by the Alzheimer’s Society – are confused about why they are there, with no one to advocate for them, get them a cup of tea or take them to the loo. The wait in A&E can be as long as five hours, a very long time for any elderly person to be alone in a stressful environment, never mind for someone with dementia.