I didn’t expect to hear dad had been admitted to hospital
“Back in May I got a phone call from mum saying that dad had been taken to hospital by ambulance with severe chest pains, and the hospital was keeping him overnight. At this point we were both trying to keep calm and tell each other it was all going to be ok. But inside, I was extremely stressed. My dad is in his 70s, has COPD – which makes it hard to breathe – and should have been shielding at home, so I was worried he might easily catch coronavirus in hospital.
“On top of that, I live about two hours away from my parents and we were in the middle of lockdown. Mum, who also has heart problems and is a bit wobbly on her feet at the best of times, was now completely on her own at home. I thought about going to stay with her, but was worried about accidentally passing COVID-19 to her, which was risky.
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We had to keep chasing the hospital for information
“As we weren’t allowed to visit, mum had to keep ringing the hospital to find out what was happening. She had luckily managed to give dad a mobile, but I don’t think he knew how to use it! Eventually a doctor told us that dad had experienced a heart attack, they would be doing a procedure to clear his arteries, and he should be home in a few days.
“Unfortunately, the procedure got pushed back and no one told us. That meant dad was in hospital for longer than planned. It was difficult being kept in limbo, but more than that it had a significant knock-on-effect on mum. Dad takes care of mum at home, doing little things like helping her take a bath, or going shopping, and it was hard to know whether to get some temporary care support in place. It was very kind of neighbours to check in and make sure mum’s fridge was well stocked.
Dad was told to self-discharge as the doctors couldn’t agree on what to do
“The hospital kept changing their mind about whether dad could come home. Mum just kept calling trying to even get a small bit of information to find out what was happening – it was incredibly stressful. I remember she called me in tears as she felt so hopeless about the situation.
“As it was a bank holiday, the doctor looking after my dad was off duty. He had said it was ok for dad to be discharged, but frustratingly didn’t leave any instructions. What this meant was the new doctor who took over dad’s care said he couldn’t make the call as there were no notes.
“A nurse who had been taking care of dad all week told him to just self-discharge as the doctor couldn’t agree on what to do. But that worried us too, as we weren’t sure it was the right thing to do. Eventually dad just self-discharged and took a taxi home, but I don’t think he was even tested for COVID-19.
We didn’t know what to expect from his aftercare
“There wasn’t much information about aftercare from the hospital – dad was told to take paracetamol and talk to his GP. We didn’t really know how to take care of him, or what signs to look out for in case there was a problem. Eventually a week later a nurse did a home visit and luckily everything was ok.
Communication would have made a big difference
“I completely understand that doctors and nurses were rushed off their feet. But it’s hard as a family member to not know what’s happening, it’s so easy to think of the worst. I think a bit of communication would have helped us prepare mentally for the situation, especially about how to care for dad at home. I also think hospital staff need to communicate better amongst themselves, as it wasn’t right for dad to get inconsistent information from different doctors, and I’m still not sure whether a nurse should have really advised dad to self-discharge.”