Archive for December, 2011

Wendy's Journey Home from Hospital

Wendy Grainger aged 84 lives on her own in Worthing West Sussex. Following a hip operation in a local  private hospital, her niece who lives in Birmingham, contacted Relative Matters  seeking help to arrange her aunt’s discharge home from hospital.

If your elderly relative chooses an independent or private hospital, it is important that you both think seriously about the services that are available before and after your relative’s discharge from hospital. This is because, unlike NHS hospitals, private and independent hospitals do not have a duty to inform Social Services if your relative needs support when they leave hospital or to arrange healthcare services for them.

When I visited Wendy in hospital, she was adamant that she wanted to go home. However hospital staff did not think it would be safe for her to return home to live on her own. I suggested that she go into a nursing home for convalescence and said I would arrange physiotherapy while she was there with the goal of helping her to return home. Following a great deal of persuasion I gave her information about a couple of nursing homes and left her with to think about it overnight, realising that to push her too much would have the opposite effect to what  hospital staff and I wanted. The following morning Wendy agreed and I arranged transport for her transfer to the nursing home.

Ten days and several physiotherapy sessions later, Wendy was ready to return home. I liaised with her GP, the district nurses,meals on wheels service, pharmacist and her niece. I also obtained a list of the shopping she wanted and arranged for it to be delivered on the day she returned home. I also arranged transport  and at Wendy’s request, escorted her home and settled her back in.

Wendy is fiercely independent and refused my attempts to arrange a support package for her. While I felt this decision was unwise, Wendy did not lack the mental capacity to make her own decisions, which includes being allowed to  make her own mistakes.

Wendy was one of the clients who informed our decision to develop a Hospital to Home Service for older people, to meet a gap in services for people who do not receive funding or support from Social Services.


Top Tips to Help Your Elderly Parents Beat the Cold

Now we are officially in the winter season, we can look forward to colder, shorter days and snow and ice will be likely visitors.

Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. One of the best ways of keeping older people well during winter is to make sure they keep warm. Unfortunately bills have risen dramatically over the past years and an extra 25,000 older people die during the winter months from preventable causes. Helping our elderly loved ones  avoid falls and hypothermia is therefore something that we must take seriously. These tips will make sure they will keep warm this winter.

Keeping warm

  • Encourage your elderly parents and older relatives to wear several thin layers rather than one thick one
  • When it’s really cold, wearing a hat and scarf will save heat being lost through their head and neck.
  • Clothes made from wool, fleecy and natural fabrics will keep them warmer than synthetic ones.
  • Make sure your loved one has thermal underwear and wears bed socks at night.
  • Make sure they keep their internal doors closed to keep the heat in.
  • Get them to close their curtains as soon as it gets dark and buy a draught excluder for the door to the room they sit in.
  • Make sure they have regular hot drinks, soups and cereals such as porridge.

Also ask yourself how your elderly loved one would cope if:

  • Their path or driveway became icy?
  • Their central heating failed?
  • They were snowed in for a few days or caught flu?
  • Their safety was compromised?

So be prepared

  • Buy a snow and ice melt product before the cold weather hits. You will have a job to get it once it does!
  • Have a grab rail fitted if there are steps at their front or back door.
  • Ensure a portable heater (fan type safest for older people) is available.
  • Check loft is insulated. Subsidised loft insulation is often available. Find out more at
  • Get a room thermometer. (Age UK provide them free) temperature for living room is 21c and at least 18c for other rooms.
  • Check water stopcock is working.
  • Have heating serviced and chimney swept annually.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers near the phone.
  • Have a seasonal flu jab and one off pneumonia jab.
  • Keep basic food items in cupboard in case it’s too cold to go shopping.
  • Keep simple cold, flu and sore throat remedies in cupboard. Local pharmacist will advise.
  • Arrange for medication to be delivered before winter begins.
  • Have electric blankets serviced every three years. Trading Standards offer free testing.
  • Make sure their smoke alarm is working.
  • Have carbon monoxide alarm installed or checked.
  • Guard an open fire.