When dignity matters

Richard was only 55 when Martha started to notice the first signs of memory loss.

At first, it was the little things like locking the door and remembering to have lunch. Then it got worse. His thinking started to become muddled and his writing became illegible.

Within 18 months, Richard was diagnosed with dementia. His decline was rapid and heart-breakingly cruel. He became doubly incontinent, lost the ability to walk and before long, also the ability to speak. Within months, Martha and Richard were compelled to move into sheltered accommodation as Martha could no longer cope with caring for her husband and manage their large family home. Moving into smaller sheltered accommodation enabled Martha, with the help of carers, to cope better. And that’s when the nightmare began.

I have worked in the area of social and health care for nearly thirty years, and the one thing I know is that when someone you love loses their health and needs long-term personal care, finding the right kind of care and the best people to deliver it, is crucial. Sadly, this was not Martha’s experience.

Richard’s Alzheimer’s had left him virtually speechless, barely able to move, and periodically suffering from seizures. What he needed was a small team of experienced dedicated carers…

What he got was a succession of strangers to attend to his most intimate needs; a staggering seventy, in all. Like many people with dementia, Richard was fearful of strangers and this succession of unfamiliar faces only served to distress him. To top it all, their lack of compassion and sympathy for someone they barely had a relationship with made the whole experience traumatic for him. This practice of providing disjointed, impersonal, ‘tick-box’ care is all too common in the social care industry. It’s one of the reasons why we, at PHC Home Care make it our business to ensure that our clients are looked after by a team of dedicated carers who are both compassionate and sympathetic to the needs of those that we provide care for.

I have always believed and still believe that dignity is the right of everyone, in particular the most vulnerable, especially when care really matters.

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