My mother was diagnosed with dementia (probable Alzheimer’s) some time ago, but lacked any insight into her condition. This meant she did not believe she had anything wrong with her. When it came to the NHS and local community care, we felt as if we were having to continually shout louder and louder to have our needs met (both ours and Mum’s). Despite local community mental health teams visiting regularly, Mum refused to take any medication. She also refused to eat regularly and would only consume very limited food choices, which meant she was malnourished. Things finally came to a head early last year…

Finally admitting “it’s time”

Due to a chest infection, my mother became highly delusional (infections can greatly increase the effects of dementia). The local mental health community care team advised that Mum needed to go into hospital for a check-up and then straight into the dementia unit for assessment. It was time for us all to admit the burden of daily care carried out by my father had come to breaking point. Therefore, Mum’s admittance to hospital was the only way to get her the help and support she needed, and to prevent my father from falling ill due to the unbearable stress and strain.

Finding the right care home

After Mum had been in the hospital for several weeks, her condition was assessed and we had confirmation that she was suffering with Alzheimer’s. A family care meeting was held with local authorities, and we were advised that we needed to find Mum a suitable care home. With very little support on offer by social services, it was up to us as a family to find the right place. We had simply no knowledge or experience in this area – why would we? We didn’t know what to look for or how to assess the quality of a care home. We read as much as we could, but had little in the way of benchmarks or any points of reference to be able to make an informed decision.

Time became an increasing pressure, as we had to move Mum out of the hospital as soon as we could. After a whistle-stop tour of four care homes, and trying to make sense of the CQC reports (Care Quality Commission, who regulate care home provisions in the UK), we thought we had found the ideal location. The care home looked nice, the care staff seemed friendly and the room was more than adequate. The CQC report seemed good too. With hindsight, I only wish that we had engaged Sunrise Home Support at this stage, because what happened next was everyone’s worst nightmare…

From one crisis to another

No matter how hard we tried to help settle Mum into the care home, we faced constant battles in terms of poor communication between care staff, shoddy handovers between shift changes, the absence of any supportive management, and continual failings in her day to day care. My father was struggling to come to terms with the absence of his wife, my brother had a very young family to look after, and I ran my own full-time business, so life became a constant juggling act for us all.

I cannot go into the full details of every single failing – sadly, there are simply too many for one article. However, everything came to a head when my mother was prescribed a laxative to assess a physical condition, and my father found her in a state not fit for an animal. Worse still, this happened again the following day, with little follow up (or interest) from the care staff. Enough was enough!

Finding help and support

This is the point where we engaged Sunrise Care Advisers. First, they helped us to write a formal complaint letter, finding all the relevant authorities, senior contacts at the care home’s head office, and even a local MP. Within days of the letter landing, the relevant local authorities started a full investigation. Sadly, it soon came to light that many others had had similar experiences – some much worse than ours. Eventually, the home was closed, but thankfully, Sunrise Care Advisers were there to support us, researching several care home settings including a helpful breakdown of CQC reports. Mum has now moved to another care home – this time, we were able to make the right decision due to the expert advice and resources supplied by Sunrise Care Advisers.

The help and support provided by Sunrise Home Support was quite simply invaluable. They took a huge burden off my family and we will be eternally grateful for their assistance.

Nicola (name changed to protect anonymity)

If you or someone you know has been affected by any points raised in this article, please get in touch to speak to our Independent Advocate for advice.

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