Recently, I have been thinking and talking about core beliefs.
What is me, once you have stripped away the bark, once you have planed me to a smooth finish; what runs through my inner-self?
Remove the titles, professional masque and what do you have?
A guy, trying to ensure that older people (although people in general) when vulnerable, during periods of sickness and ill-health receive the best, most human (and humane) care, support and treatment available.
Sure, there are constraints.
We don’t have unlimited resources; we are stuck within the confines of a health and social care system that was designed for almost a century ago, recruitment and retention of staff is an issue, the population is ageing.
Yet, underneath all of that, human all too human.
We eat, we sleep, we cry, we laugh.
You know the pictures of day-old gibbons or orangutans that sometimes circulate on the net? We are all that vulnerable soul at one time or another.
And when considering those core principles – equality, fairness, openness, honesty, there are a few practices that are consistent.
I can’t leave it alone.
I am standing, waiting, with a crowd of other Glaswegians outside the tired, dirty doors of Ward 11 in the now shut Victoria Infirmary. Killing time as my mum waits on the other side. The nurses handing-over; all orderly, remote, distant and cold.
I sound repetitive – 21st Century, people in space, the Mariana Trench explored, Nano surgery, the iPhone, all these technological gadgets, despite this, medical, or, often nursing hegemony that first saw the light of day as Florence Nightingale stood over bloodied troops during the Crimean Ward is still dominant.
Visiting times 2 to 4; something like that. If you are lucky, we will let you in in the evening, but, only if you are good. Only if you toe the line and behave.
Two to a bed; don’t sit there, you might spread germs, don’t talk too loudly, use your phone or hang-around at mealtimes; scat. Begone. Better off without you.
That is the mantra of the un-person-centred.
Stronger together is often taken as a political slogan. The remain campaign, the Scottish referendum;
Together we stand, so long as you don’t stand too close or get in the way; we have work to do!
In what context, in what perverted sense of care does visiting-times fit?
‘I know you are working full time, and, I know you have travelled for five hours to see your dad, and I know, I know, dementia or not, you still can’t see him now, it is not visiting time.’
Kind of mantra.
It drives me crazy.
Last week I announced to a room of spirited, very caring folk my request that we start a campaign to get rid of EMI.
This is the official descriptor used for nursing and residential homes providing ‘specialist’ (a moveable feast) care for those living with dementia.
It stands for Elderly Mentally Infirm.
Those of you who have been reading this blog over the years know that ‘elderly’ is not one of the words with which I associate, it conjures images of shuffling, wandersome dependents who have lost their way, needing guidance and support from the youth.
And Mentally Infirm. ‘Hi George; former pilot, husband, father of four, public speaker, lover, explorer, campaigner for human rights; welcome to the world of the infirm. You can leave your independence at the front door.’
I now request that we pull on another string of person-centredness.
They should not exist.
They are a breach of human rights.
They are a medico-centric hangover from the 1970’s.
Mr Salamander the surgeon has his Gamma-camera, I have my freedom to bring friends and family into care, to redefine the position of the older person as the individual who has care done with, not to, who, part of the multidisciplinary team is a co-conspirator in their own treatment and recovery; who sets the rules.
Hospital is not prison. It is not school.
Two other pre-industrial constructs that don’t meet the needs of the modern age.
Dear reader, the next time you see visiting times please challenge. Please question.
Speak to the nurse in charge, the doctor, call the Chief Executive of the organisation and ask whether they would like to be kept away from their loved ones when they are unwell, write to your MP, heck, I am sure Wendy Mitchell or Nicci Gerard would love to hear from you.
Let’s get something going.