Five years to the day after you died, I am now able to tell the world of the circumstances surrounding your sad death. I’ve had to keep it fairly close to my heart for reasons that will become obvious.
You arrived at Lennox House, a so-called care home provided by so-called care provider Care UK, in Islington/Holloway, London on 28 November 2007, having spent the previous 4 months incarcerated (against my will, and against your will too) in a hellhole of an assessment unit. Your vascular dementia was too challenging for all but you. The extra-care sheltered housing recommended as eminently suitable for you was eminently unsuitable for everyone, with or without dementia. Thanks to the Notting Hill Housing Group, and thanks also to Islington Council’s commissioning department who didn’t seem to know what they’d commissioned.
So, within a year of what they called ‘independent living’ but which was, in reality, ‘independent dying’, we were persuaded to agree to you and all your needs being assessed. How wrong we were. But we had no way of knowing, of course, that the social worker was not being HOT – honest, open and transparent. Your needs weren’t assessed at all. You were merely drugged up to the eyeballs, to keep you controlled. Within 3 months – when even a couple of the staff asked us why you were there, when you were so lively, cheerful and chatty, even though you quite rightly wanted to get out of the place – you became a gibbering idiot. We were given the big refusal when we asked what medications you were being given that could have had such a dramatic impact on you, in just a few weeks. We persevered and discovered that you were on Buprenorphine, an opioid painkiller. That was one hell of a kick in the teeth, for you; you’d only ever taken paracetamol before to deal with your back pain. But your back pain turned out to be osteoporosis. So I extend my thanks to your GPs who never bothered to look further than their noses, until we insisted on further investigation. Not that it was severe enough for that kind of painkiller.
Then along came Amitryptiline, alongside the Buprenorphine, and they worked their evil on you. There was nothing we could do. Nobody would listen to us.
We wanted to move you away from that assessment unit. I told the social worker in August 2007 that if they kept you there for long, you would die. I wasn’t far wrong, was I? But the social worker knew best, even though she’d only known you for months of your 83 years. Aided and abetted by her superiors, kept you there, until such time as the Mental Capacity Act came into full force on 1 October 2007. We were told that if we didn’t like the decision made – by a show of hands at a ward meeting to which we were not even invited, but people who’d met you only once were able to show their vote – we could do the other: take it to the Court of Protection. Thanks here to Doug Wilson, Phoebe Masso and a few others who were all involved in this strange kind of decision-making in their best interests, but not in your best interests.. We started to fill in all the appropriate forms for the Court of Protection.
We couldn’t bear to see you suffer. So we agreed to your move to Lennox House so-called care home, so called state-of-the-art ‘flagship’ care home, the way forward for dementia care. You arrived there, in the nursing section, on 28 November 2007, awaiting a bed in the residential section. Your needs were then not for nursing care. Still upstanding, still able to ask us questions, still able to say that you wanted to go home. But it was clear to us that we would never be able to achieve that for you. We spent the first few days with you, hoping that you’d settle and be able to regain your strength, and the fighting spirit you’d shown all your life. 83 years and a bit of a great life.
We phoned daily and were told you were settling in well; walking the corridors – that was your normal, as someone who could never sit still for long. Always doing something, always on the move, always active.
Ten days later, at 0915 on Saturday 8 December 2007, we received a phone call telling us that you’d been admitted to the Whittington Hospital’s A&E department, as you were in spasm, had a possible seizure, and that you were needing oxygen “and we can’t give her oxygen here”. That’s what Lennox House told us. Before we left home to head for London, I took another phone call. This time from the Whittington doctor, telling me that we would have to make serious decisions about the degree of intervention they should take. The A&E Consultant told me that you were unlikely to live beyond that day.
He didn’t know you, though. You managed to cling to life for another 3 weeks, before giving up your fight. Before you lost your fight, I began asking questions as to what on earth could have happened in the 7 days since I saw you last.
I first asked the Alzheimer’s Society for help when I first realised that something had gone seriously wrong. They refused me any assistance at all, saying that they didn’t get involved in this “kind of thing”. I explained that I wasn’t asking them to get involved, just to point me in the direction of help and support. That’s what I understood the Alzheimer’s Society to be all about. But I didn’t know then as much as I know now about the Alzheimer’s Society’s close connections to local authorities, and to care providers. Nor had I then been told by a couple of the Alzheimer’s Society’s representatives that they thought I was what they called a troll, who had never had any connections with dementia, with social services, with care homes, and so on. They have continued with that kind of unkind care too. So I extend my thanks to the Alzheimer’s Society for showing me that they don’t really care.
I decided to go it alone from then on, expecting no support from anyone, but accepting any support that came my way. For the support that came, I will be forever grateful. As for the support refused or contorted by lies, I will be forever perplexed.
It’s taken me 5 years to get answers to some but by no means all of my questions. Many will never be answered because people in positions of power seem not to understand those little HOT words: honest, open and transparent. I’ve never heard so many untruths told. And still being told too, after all this time. So it’s not over yet.
Two separate investigations have taken place into the circumstances surrounding your neglect in care, with 2 very different reports emerging from them.
Last week, the NMC made some decisions, about the staff employed by Care UK and working then at Lennox House.
Catherine Igbokwe was struck off by the NMC. She will never do to others what she did to you.
Maria Rholyn Secuya (nee Baquerfo) was given a 3 year caution order by the NMC. She will have to be on her best behaviour.
Sheila Ali, the care home manager/nurse, is challenging the decision made thus far by the NMC, so her barrister has decided to seek approval for a Judicial Review. In the interim, she has a 9 month suspension order – but that may change.
The case of Dahlia Dela Cerna (nee Enriquez) has been adjourned until next year.
This is all available on the NMC website of Hearings/Outcomes for 17 to 21 December 2012. Available here in the public domain.
As are these two articles that appeared in the press:
8 August 2008 – Daily Mail article here. “Care home boss suspended after dead bodies of two pensioners ‘are left for days’.”
Yesterday, 28 December 2012 – Islington Gazette article by Meyrem Hussein here. “Pensioner ‘is left in agony for days’ at Holloway care home”.
So, that’s where I’ve got to, five years to the day after your departure from this world.
You deserved better care.
(To be continued)