The day you get the OK to return home after being in hospital, should be a really good day. So why are some people afraid to go home?
You’ve recovered. You should be feeling better, positive and confident that you can cope with life at home – with whatever support you have arranged.
But a report has revealed that’s not always the case. Vulnerable patients, often frail or elderly, are being sent home from hospital too early – afraid and with little support.
“The British Red Cross is aware of cases where people have returned home without their house keys, without warm clothing, disorientated and unable to cope with basic tasks,” said chief executive Mike Adamson.
Demand on hospital beds combined with limited options for support at home puts hospitals in a sticky situation. But that does not excuse a system that harms people’s well-being.
Clearly it’s time for change. The British Red Cross is calling for more resources and better co-ordination for health and social care services to tackle the issue.
Follow our lead
The Red Cross has experience in this area. Last year we helped 31,000 people with safe, comfortable and timely discharge through our home from hospital and assisted discharge schemes.
We operate over 60 of these services in hospitals across the UK through our team of dedicated volunteers and staff.
Help for 80-year-old Raymond
Brighton-born Raymond Attrell felt the benefit of our assisted discharge service at Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Raymond, who is 80 years old, lives alone. Back in March he burnt his leg with a flask of coffee and had to go to A&E.
“By the time I had been treated it was getting late at night and the hospital didn’t have the resources to take me home,” Raymond said.
Fortunately the Red Cross did and sent support worker Anna Holecz to meet Raymond.
“The Red Cross people came to meet me and said they could take me home which was wonderful,” Raymond recalled.
Once at Raymond’s home, Anna put the fire on to heat up the cold house. She made Raymond a cup of tea and got him ready for bed.
“It was lovely to be cared for like that,” Raymond said. “I had been panicking about my recovery and being able to cope at home, but the Red Cross people made me feel so much better.”
Digging a little deeper
Red Cross volunteers made several further visits over the next six weeks to make sure Raymond was managing ok. But Anna noticed something wasn’t quite right.
“On the surface Raymond seemed cheerful – he’s not the sort to complain about being lonely – but when I dug a little deeper I started to realise he was still dealing with the bereavement of losing his friend,” Anna said.
Until last year, Raymond had lived most of his adult life as a lodger with a couple named Eileen and Lawrence Laforgue. Lawrence died in the late 1990s but Eileen more recently passed away in autumn 2015.
Raymond had been in hospital himself when she died.
“She and I were actually in hospital at the same time,” Raymond said. “She caught pneumonia and died before I could see her again.”
Returning to an empty home, the loneliness began to sink in for Raymond.
“The evenings were the worst, when I would sit alone with no-one to talk to,” Raymond recalled.
“Eileen had loved her cuckoo clocks which she had collected on her travels, so I always keep them going in her memory.”
Anna was able to put Raymond in touch with ‘Time to Talk’ in Brighton – a befriending service that will be able to continue visiting him and help him with his loneliness.
Speaking about his experience of the Red Cross, Raymond said,
“Without the Red Cross people taking time to reassure me and help me feel calmer, I might have gone back into hospital.”
Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson recently visited this service in Brighton and met with Raymond at his home.
Speaking about the issues raised regarding hospital discharge, Mike said.
“Sending patients who need a little extra support home without ensuring that support is in place is a false economy, and causes distress and harm.
“At the same time, keeping people in hospital when they desperately want to return home but need a little support is contributing to ‘bed blocking’.
“Without action to address the reasons behind this – the pressure on health services, a lack of investment in adult social care – and with more cuts to hospital beds and community care in the offing, the situation will deteriorate further.
“The voluntary sector can offer significant support, but there are no quick fixes. Proper investment and co-ordination of our health and social care system is key.”