Fighting for your medical rights! 3



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Have you ever been told by your doctor that your loved family member is ‘old and nearing end of life’? But your gut instincts tell you otherwise?

I recently experienced this first hand with my 90 year old father in law who became seriously unwell in a very short time. Over three days, three doctors visited him at his nursing home and all responded with the same diagnosis and advice “old, dying and ‘end of life'”.

“There is no point rehydrating him with a drip as this would prolong his ‘end of life'”. We were distressed with his condition deteriorating, on the fourth day we organised for him to be transferred by ambulance to a large public hospital to be assessed by an emergency doctor.

During the medical examination by a young doctor, it became very clear that he was keen to transfer him back to the Nursing home to be managed by the “Outreach Team” and if “he needed to be rehydrated how long would you keep a drip in for anyway?” Then the classic line, “He is old and dying and has anyone spoken to us about end of life?”

Our response was “Yes he is 90 years old, he is very sick, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and to be actively medically treated. His brother is 94!”

Eventually he was admitted with severe dehydration and medication toxicity. Requiring hospitalization for six days until he was stable enough to be transferred to a private hospital for rehabilitation for a further four weeks.

He has fully recovered but the ‘system’ is so stacked against you if you don’t have anyone advocating on your behalf.

Apart from deafness in one ear and no longer able to move like a gazelle, he leads a very fulfilling life living with our family. We recently went to watch the Americans and Australians training leading up to the recent Davis Cup held at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. Loves his sport and can’t wait for his footy team the Demons to win another flag!

Never give up just because you are old!

Do you have a similar story to share?

Nancy Bassett

  1. Yes
    I slept on the chair overnight when my 90 year old mother was in hospital,on 3 occasions over 3 years . I honestly could not have done anything else
    Her cardiologist popped his head in her room to say well be sending you home your feeling better arent you,my mother did not have her hearing aids in ,so i asked questions on her behalf to be advised by cardiologist that I am not the patient,so mind my own business, he wasnt interested that she had no idea what he was saying , nor did the nurse accompanying him, he stated that her extreme tiredness was to be expected at her age.???? and what were we expecting, all old people sleep their days away I tried to explain this was not usual for her ,she had been fit and active.I advocated for rehab,she was sent to a a major rehab centre, where the staff kept insisting she was admitted for a stroke, ( she had a facial tick for years but NEVER a stroke), she was only offered thickened drinks due to her “stroke”,the staff made several medication errors,ignoring her when she would advise them that she had already taken her meds or that she was not on medication they were trying to administer. In this one centre we submitted 3 medication error complaints on her behalf in one week,one involving a nurse trying tyo administer an injection to her !,which she had not been prescribedMy mother was vocal in her own defence thus deemed to be showing “behaviors of concern” Overnight staff tried to insist she wear continence aids,( pads) as they could not guarantee they could assist her out of bed within time to reach toilet My mother never had been incontinent. Over 3 weeks never being allowed to help herself out of bed or walk independently( this was a rehab centre)she was starting to deteriorate and showing signs of depression and apathy.As her advocate I spoke with staff and arranged a family conference,finally with my mother s agreeance,discharging her against Drs orders,thinking “well if you are going to die soon ,die happy at home , with family and drinking “unthickened tea” I continued to advocate on her behalf over another 3 years and 3 hospital attendances. It is not only Drs but also nurses.I myself am a RN and to see the state of both the pvte and public hospital systems you could cry Always ,always advocate on behalf of your elderly or not so elderly family or friends .

    1 REPLY
    • I know the feeling of fighting for a parent and a grandparent with my sisters. We knew what mum and nan needed and how we would like them treated in all ways. We checked on them several times each per week. The hospitals one being a private decided they knew better. WE knew better. The hospitals soon knew we three were a force to be reckoned with. We all had husband’s and children but our husband’s we very good. Needless to say by what we saw things were OK but there is always an element of doubt. I worked in an aged care hospital until I retired and I made sure that when I was on the residents were all treated with the respect they deserved. I actually loved the time I spent at work with them. If I could I’d go to work there again but I’m going to volunteer ASAP. Have put my name down and waiting for someone to contact me after Easter. Here’s hoping it’s soon.

  2. And the other side of the story is when the patient and their family do not want resuscitation or valiant efforts and invasive treatment. Even when this is written in the patients notes, even when the family and patient say this, too often the hospital/nursing home go ahead with heroic efforts. But it is not only older patients. I have had major arguments with A&E doctors and ambulance personnel who refuse to believe that I have severe reactions to codeine and morphine converts in my body so quickly it has no effect. I have spent hours in agony through lack of suitable pain relief. A caesarian (3 ) with the wrong pain relief afterwards is horrific. Medical staff need to listen to patients and believe what they say.

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