The day of your funeral arrived. It took place late on a cold and dark January afternoon. It was always destined to be a quiet occasion because you had outlived most of your relatives and friends, so it was to be just a small family affair. The Service was elegant and personal, with a sprinkling of your good humour and more than a dash of our family history.
Your unexpected and sudden admission to hospital and death there had caused us enormous pain. We knew by now that there would be a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding your admission to hospital within 10 days of arriving in the care home. We had hoped to have the time and space for our last farewells to you at the funeral. We were not even allowed that. Care UK chose to intrude again in death as it had done in your life.
The Service ended and we followed the Minister out of the Chapel, only to see two people sat right at the back. The care home manager and another person had chosen to invite themselves to your funeral. Representing the care home Lennox House and the care provider Care UK that had failed to care for you.
One of your family had already told the manager that she would not receive a warm welcome at the funeral, so it was disturbing to see that she chose to ignore that advice and that request not to attend. The Minister spent quite some time talking with us all before he departed, as we stood outside, almost in the darkness, looking at the floral tributes. Strange though it seemed at the time and strange though it still seems to us, the care home manager went to her car to get her mobile phone and took photographs of some of the flowers that had been designed to reflect part of your origins. You’ll know the images I’m talking about here.
Little did we realise though that her motivation for attending your funeral went far beyond the usual reasons for attending a funeral, albeit uninvited and unwelcome.
You remember that ‘Complaints Form’ that I mentioned here before? The one that allegedly came into being on 31.12.2007 when we chanced to bump into the manager at Lennox House. Well, after the funeral service the manager must have driven at speed back to the office, where she signed off the Complaints Form at 18:00 hours, with the words “Resolved” and making references to things that were allegedly said at the funeral. The form indicates that no further investigation would be required by Care UK as the complaint had been ‘resolved’. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
The same Complaints Form made reference to things that she could not possibly have known then, because even we didn’t know then some of the things mentioned on this form and we were the first to know them, later. Nobody else knew these facts then when the Complaints Form is supposed to have been created and completed. Contemporaneous? I doubt it.
But we didn’t know about all of this until July 2008.
Almost her parting words as she left the cemetery, the manager said again “We’ve taken steps to ensure that this kind of thing never happens to anybody else”. The same words she’d used twice before and said to me on 31.12.2007. They resemble those oft-used but empty words “lessons have been learned”. Except that the lessons are never learned well enough to ensure that this never happens again.
I wanted to say to her that – while I could appreciate the benefits others would undoubtedly derive from those steps – they are steps that should have been taken long before you arrived in that care home. They’re the most basic elements of care, fundamental to a place that calls itself a ‘care home’. The elementary fundamentals of care. Without them being firmly in place, nobody has the right to use the words ‘care home’.
The Investigation would take its course, I said, so we should wait for that before making any comments on it all. It was a funeral, after all, so everyone was polite, as you would expect of us. We didn’t know then that there would be two Investigations, both of which revealed much of the same, but with one revealing far more than the other, including many of the most basic lessons that needed still to be learned.
You only had one chance in that care home.
You deserved better care.
(To be continued)