This month I have had reason to reflect on the experience of the older person who finds themselves having to move to care home accommodation following discharge from hospital.
Often they will be particularly vulnerable to making a decision that they would not otherwise have made at a time when they are recovering from ill health, struggling to come to terms with a deteriorating long term condition or news of a new diagnosis.
Family may not be local and friends may be unwilling to become too actively involved for fear of finding themselves assuming too much responsibility. This can leave the older person dependent on health and social care professionals who are, to all intents and purpose, strangers to them at a time when life changing decisions need to be made.
If the admission was arranged on an emergency basis they are likely to be without their personal belongings; their own night wear and toiletries, the contents of a handbag that we women hold dear and give us peace of mind that we can contact others and pay for items we may require. The older person may also be dependent on post for essential correspondence but which never finds them on their hospital ward.
They are then advised they need to move home, an event widely recognised as one of the most stressful experiences we endure. They may have limited choices, be expected to make huge compromises and have no opportunity to return home and decide for themselves what to take with them, what to dispose of or how.
The feelings of helplessness, disempowerment and anxiety must be frankly huge.
To all families, friends and professionals endeavouring to support an older person in this situation – put yourselves in their shoes for a moment or two and don’t be afraid to ask for help with the many practical and emotional issues this scenario raises. The support you are able to provide having done this will be all the more sensitive, empathetic and invaluable for doing so.