This footage from Channel 4’s programme, ‘24 hours in A & E’, is touching and heartwarming.  It captures the the story of John and Iris.  John had to go into the hospital because of some heart problems, but his real concern is the love of his life, his wife Iris.  He remembers every detail of their lives together, even their first date back in 1946. Sadly, Iris has dementia, so all the remembering is down to John now.  Listening to him makes you realise how precious are their lives.  You can see the film clip here:

But then you read a report showing how callously older people are still being treated in parts of the NHS, and wonder how this can be happening in England in 2017.

600 people who’d had an elderly relative stay in hospital overnight were interviewed by Gransnet and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.  210 said they had been upset by the treatment their loved ones had received, and half of them said they’d found it difficult to complain.  (An often-heard reason is that they’re afraid hospital staff will ‘take it out on’ their relative, afterwards.)

Their statements included patients being forced to wear “adult nappies” because nurses do not have time to attend to the most basic needs; an elderly man forced to call for an ambulance after being left in agony after a fall in his hospital, with a 75 minute wait before doctors attended, and some some being left unwashed for days.  One patient had to wait for 5 hours before a qualified doctor confirmed that he’d had a stroke, but now couldn’t be treated because they’d missed ‘the golden hour’.  Perhaps the most disturbing were relatives who said their loved ones had been shouted at, and treated like children, or subjected to nurses laughing at their misery.  You can read the report here:

I know not all hospitals, and not all nurses are like this.  Last year an elderly relative spent some months in hospital, where she was treated with great kindness.   At the time I noticed there were organised voluntary visitors to her Ward. When our care home residents go into hospital, often one of the homes’ supporters will visit.  Perhaps if the ‘bad’ hospitals knew that their behaviour was going to be more ‘public’  they may change their attitude – because it’s surely attitude that causes indifference and cruelty like this.   It could be something that churches’ retired people, who usually have more time than others could do, form a little team of volunteers visiting older people in hospital.   Perhaps liaising with the Royal Voluntary Service, that does such good work in hospitals.  (See here: )


Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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