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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 07:18 GMT
'Care staff sedated him by 4pm'
Lionel
Lionel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's relatively young
The Alzheimer's Society is calling on all care home staff to receive mandatory training in dementia care. Here, Connie describes her struggle to find compassionate care for her husband Lionel.

Lionel was working as the London picture editor for publishers DC Thompson when his memory started to go. He was just 60 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

"It wasn't just forgetting things, it was his spatial awareness and mobility which went too, which aren't the things you necessarily think of," says Connie.

"He would sit down without there being a chair behind him, and the paramedics would have to come and help him off the floor."

Initially, Connie used respite care. But eventually she was told that to keep him at home, she would need a hoist and two carers. This was not feasible.

"So I started to look into homes. I wanted one nearby, so I could visit everyday, and I found one that was just five minutes away. It looked very nice - the bedrooms were beautiful.

"In fact, I made all the wrong choices."

Sitting in silence

The residents were expected to sit in the lounge all day. They did nothing, Connie says.

Connie
I got there and he was sat on his own in a room with four staff chatting to each other at the other end. I brought him home that night
Connie Harris

"And if they tried to stand up, one of the assistants would says: "Sit down! You'll hurt yourself!"

Connie took Lionel to the dentist because he had an abscess on his tooth.

"The dentist said his teeth had not been cleaned. When I brought this up at the home they said he had told them he could clean his teeth. Well he would say that, I said. He would say he could drive if you asked him."

After just days, sedation medication which was used at night to stop him jerking awake and falling out of bed was being brought forward to 4pm as staff said they "could not cope".

At 6pm on a Thursday night, Connie received a call from the home. Her husband, a man who found it increasingly difficult to move, was "frightening the agency staff".

"I got there and he was sat on his own in a room with four staff chatting to each other at the other end. I brought him home that night."

Feeling at home

Lionel then spent 10 months back with Connie looked for a new home. Eventually she found one. Admittedly, it was in another county, and a 45 minute drive for her.

"But without a doubt it was the right choice. There's so much that goes on there, and I am encouraged to go and eat with him as often as I want. At the first home, they made it clear they preferred not to have you there at lunchtime.

"At Halloween for instance, we carved pumpkins. There are lovely young carers who take pride in what they do. It's not really money, it's attitude.

"Lionel is bed bound now. It's really a question of eating and breathing for him. I'm not sure he knows who I am, but I think when I am there he thinks it is a good thing.

"And the main thing is that when I visit him, I don't feel like we're in some institution, I feel like I am visiting him where he should be - in his home."

SEE ALSO
Dementia patients 'are ignored'
27 Nov 07 |  Health

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