Involve the carer

Cheryl cares for her father Garnet, who has moderate dementia. Cheryl believes education about dementia, communication and involvement of carers would improve the hospital experience.

Issues/problems faced

In the last two years my father, Garnet, has been in hospital for pneumonia and was admitted again following a fall. I went with him to the Emergency Department (ED) and spent most days with him during his admissions.

I found the way my father was questioned to be very frustrating for both of us.  Nursing staff would ask my father the questions and he was often unable to answer them, so he would look to me to reply. I would then answer for him, but often the next question would again be directed to my father. They were only focusing on the main problem and didn’t listen when I told them he had dementia. They just ignored me. I felt his dementia and my presence were not acknowledged at all.

I did worry what would have happened if I was not there. I was happy to help out, change his wet sheets in the morning and be there throughout the day. However, it sometimes felt as if I wasn’t there in the room.

Strategies that would have made a difference

I understand that my father should be included in any conversation; however, I think the questioning could have been done in a better way so that we were both involved and so I could fill in the gaps for him. Involving the carer more would save time. Everyone is so busy. 

I wondered if the nursing staff, especially the younger ones, had any opportunity to learn about dementia, how to communicate and how to be patient. Some had been taught, like the ones taking X-rays, who were chatty but calm and able to put him at ease. They need to learn how to involve and acknowledge carers, and perhaps even ask carers if they are ok and have support when the person with dementia returns home.