Recently doctors explained that sadly they think my mother will die soon.
She is 92, suffering from advanced dementia, and has had pneumonia. During a busy pastoral day I found time to get to the hospital, as we have been doing every day. I walked into the ward but my mother was not to be seen. I asked a nurse where she was. ‘Didn’t you know?’ she said, ‘She was moved to a nursing home this morning’. I was stunned. She was very apologetic.
What was going on?
It wasn’t quite as bad as it might first appear. We were indeed working on getting mum to a nursing home. But there were legal forms to sign and it was taking us some days to track down our situation on enduring power of attorney. The letter from NHS Continuing Care clearly stated that nothing could be done until these legal documents had been correctly filled in and signed. But evidently that requirement had simply gone out of the window under the pressures to get my ‘bed-blocker’ mother out of the ward. She had been carted off like a sack of potatoes. We had no opportunity to try to explain to her what was happening or to bring clothes or items of comfort from her flat.
The woman from NHS Continuing Care, who had been very helpful answering questions about the forms on the phone and who had told us not to rush, was now no longer answering the phone or indeed emails. Something had obviously gone wrong. Earlier in the week the hospital ward had badgered us, phoning us on Ann’s mobile while we were in Homebase, to see if we had yet seen and chosen between the nursing homes on offer. But evidently, they could not ring us to inform us that my mother was being moved.
Because she is expected to die soon and meets certain requirements, my mother’s place in nursing care is to be funded by the NHS. We asked how long for? An answer was not immediate. Eventually we heard that the funding is reviewed every six weeks. If the funding is withdrawn it will mean us having to find £1100 a week (around £57,000 a year) to provide for mum. This would be a tall order for anyone. My mother is a strong woman. The possibility of funding being withdrawn sadly means that grieving over mum easily gets mixed up with sleepless nights of anxiety over money. This is not the best.
At the beginning of October, just around the time that mum was taken into the nursing home, it was reported in the national news that the chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission, Andrea Sutcliffe, admitted that the standard of care in homes in England is ‘not good enough at the moment’ and that too much ‘awful care’ was happening. The nursing home we have chosen looks a good one. We hope we are right. Our experience at the hospital has unsettled us.
My mum is a believer who, with a simple faith, was baptised at the age of 82. That is the ultimate comfort. But the only cure for an anxious night that I’ve found that works is prayer and resting on the promises of our faithful God. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4.6, 7).