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Letter: Daughter concerned about father with dementia’s treatment at hospital

‘What would have happened if I hadn't been around to go to the hospital to advocate for my dad? Would this elderly Alzheimers patient have been left to wait for up to 10  hours for an ultrasound? Would he have wandered off and fallen somewhere or gotten lost?’
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On May 2, my 86-year-old father was transported by ambulance from his residence at St. Joseph's Villa to Health Sciences North. 

The purpose of the visit was just to get an ultrasound on his leg to determine if he had a blood clot. Dad has Alzheimers and resides in the dementia wing at St. Joseph's. 

When the nurse called me from the Villa to advise that dad just left, I asked her if anyone would be with him, given he has Alzheimers. She replied no. I then asked if dad would be kept in the back on the gurney. She said she didn't know.

My next call was to the hospital's emergency department. About 30 minutes had passed since dad was picked up, yet I was told he wasn't there yet. I then asked what would be done with him upon arrival. I was told he would be triaged and if his condition was determined not to be urgent, he would be put in the waiting room. 

I expressed my concern that because he has alzheimers could wander off if left unattended. The reply was that there were two attendants working in emergency, so that wouldn't happen.

I'd like to add at this point that St Joseph's Villa had called me at 3 p.m. to advise me that dad was being transported at 4 p.m. My mother wanted to be there with him, so she drove up to the hospital, and waited for until 7 p.m., then she went home. I telephoned St. Joseph's Villa and asked why my dad hadn’t been brought to the hospital yet. The answer was the transport team was swamped and didn't have time to come and get him, so the transport was rescheduled to 10 a.m. the next day.

I asked the nurse at the Villa to check on him and to check his leg just to be sure. As a result, the decision was made to send him to the hospital that night rather than waiting for the morning.

I got to the hospital as quick as I could and as I was walking towards the doors of the Emergency Department, I could see my dad sitting in the waiting room in a wheelchair. Poor dad. He told me as soon as someone called his name, he could go home. A very kind woman sitting nearby had been chatting with dad and keeping him company. My heart was breaking at the sight of my elderly father sitting alone, unattended in the emergency waiting room. Emergency was exceptionally busy that night, I might add. 

I approached the attendant to ask why my dad had been placed in the waiting room unattended.  She replied that she wasn't a nurse, so the decision had nothing to do with her. I asked how long the wait was to see a doctor. She said six to 10 hours. 

The triage nurse heard my questions and said she'd speak to me. I told her my dad has Alzheimers and it was unsafe to leave him unattended. During our conversation, she noticed my dad get up and start to walk away.

Seeing that, she told me my dad should have never been placed in the waiting room. She contacted diagnostic imaging and advised them we were on our way. Dad and I proceeded to that area and he was put in a room with a bed  and seen by a nurse immediately.

So here's the take away from this: what would have happened if I hadn't been around to go to the hospital to advocate for my dad? Would this elderly Alzheimers patient have been left to wait for up to 10  hours for an ultrasound? Would he have wandered off and fallen somewhere or gotten lost? This could have ended so badly. 

Whose responsibility was it to ensure his safety? The Villa? The hospital that received him from the paramedics and decided it was a good idea to sit him in the waiting room?

My mother was heartbroken when I recounted these events the next morning and broke down in tears. I'm angry, for my dad and for all the seniors who are sick and vulnerable and seem to be treated as afterthoughts.

Someone needs to answer for this. If dad had wandered outside and fallen and died there would likely have been an enquiry as to what could have been done better. Thankfully that didn't happen, but let's get those answers now.

Sharon Banfield
Greater Sudbury