Call for inquiry into Forth Valley Royal Hospital's treatment of dementia patients after falls complaints
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Gail Bowman and her family insist Euphemia Bowman, 74, was repeatedly placed into a single room over seven weeks after being admitted to the hospital in August 2017 with suspected urosepsis, despite the Bowmans urging staff to keep her in an open ward due to her condition.
They insisted Euphemia, known as Phamie, couldn’t use a buzzer to contact nurses in an emergency and would “habitually” try to go to the toilet by herself.
The Bowmans’ fear was realised in September 2017 when she fell and broke her hip and shoulder.
Phamie’s death certificate listed bilateral pneumonia as directly leading to death due to, or as a consequence of, a fracture of the femur of the neck due to, or as a consequence of, a fall.
Daughter Gail was horrified to learn another family had complained about the “barbaric and inhumane” treatment of a dementia patient at FVRH earlier this year.
Molly Allan’s loved ones spoke out about the care the Falkirk woman received and claimed the 88-year-old, on top of being made to walk on a fractured hip, was left unvaccinated for Covid and at times found in “urine-soaked linen”.
Her relatives allege the pensioner was left “in a room for weeks on end without a television or any stimulation, hearing aids, clean clothes or covers to keep her warm”.
Since sharing details of Molly’s treatment online, Gail says she’s been sent tales from people whose relatives suffered similar experiences at the hospital.
Gail contacted Michael Matheson, Falkirk West MSP, to share her concerns and the grievances raised by others over FVRH’s treatment of dementia patients.
Gail said: “We were told in 2017 that things in the hospital were going to change.
“Molly’s story was this year, so four years later they’re still treating dementia patients incredibly poorly.
“I put it on Facebook and said it’s ridiculous they’re still treating dementia patients poorly. About eight different people contacted me with horror stories about what happened to their families.
“I’ve decided I want Nicola Sturgeon and the Health Secretary to take it to Holyrood. I’m collecting stories because I think it’s going to have more of an impact on the hospital.
“When I read Molly’s story, I was absolutely infuriated because all I could think was they’ve learned nothing.
“The way they treated that woman was appalling. Dementia was the issue and they kept putting that lady into single rooms.
“It’s not about bashing Forth Valley Royal Hospital. I need somebody there to be held accountable for the lack of care for dementia patients.
“There are a lot of people there who don’t have family and, because they have dementia, they don’t have the ability to speak up for themselves.
“We were promised that things were going to change. They were going to take into account the family’s position for somebody with dementia.
“Clearly absolutely zero has changed and that isn’t going to change unless, collectively, we all get together and take it somewhere higher.”
A spokesman for Michael Matheson confirmed the politician had written to NHS Forth Valley “to enquire about what improvements they have undertaken, and intend to take, to improve care for patients with dementia”.
The health board states various upgrades have been made to the way in which those with dementia are cared for.
A spokeswoman said: “We have received a letter from Mr Matheson which we will respond to directly.
“However, in the meantime, we can confirm a number of improvements have been made to ensure local patients with dementia receive a high standard of care, tailored to their individual needs.
“These standards are also monitored on a regular basis to ensure they are consistently maintained, and any issues quickly addressed.
“These improvements focus on the importance of person-centred care, reducing risks and supporting patients and their families.
“This includes working with families to help identify individual goals, interests and preferences through the use of a ‘Getting to Know Me’ questionnaire, limiting the number of inpatient moves patients with dementia encounter and ensuring detailed information about each patient’s mobility needs and risk of falls is shared during shift handovers.
“Discharge planning preparations also start immediately after admission to help avoid, wherever possible, a prolonged stay in an unfamiliar hospital environment.”
NHS FV also uses red beakers “which patients with dementia find it easier to see” to ensure they stay hydrated.
The spokeswoman added: “Food and fluid intake is closely monitored, and special diets can also be arranged to ensure patients receive the right nutrition.
“NHS Forth Valley has also introduced dementia champions to provide advice and support to staff caring for patients with dementia across our hospitals and strengthen local education and training.
“This is a multidisciplinary approach with representation from nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietitians and radiology.
“We receive lots of positive feedback from the families of local patients with dementia.
“However, we recognise that we don’t always get it right on every occasion and we would therefore encourage any families with questions or concerns to get in touch to share their experiences and suggestions to help us continually develop and improve local services.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging and all families and patients deserve to be listened to and we understand that the hospital has introduced a range of measures to improve care.
“It is fundamental that our health service at all levels value our older people and their needs.
“We continue to work with Alzheimer Scotland to support NHS Boards improve dementia care, with each having at least one Alzheimer Scotland-funded Dementia Nurse Consultant, and continue to work with partners to implement the commitments in the Dementia Covid-19 Recovery Plan.”