73-year-old Michael McLaughlin was at St. Mary’s hospital in London when it was determined that the elderly dementia patient would be better off living in a care home than in his own house. McLaughlin was ready to be discharged, but the family did not want to move him back home and then immediately move him again to a care facility, so plans were made for him to be kept in the hospital over the weekend and then discharged to Cornelia Manor in Newport.
While McLaughlin was in the hospital over the weekend, staff at Cornelia Manor were to be make accommodations for him, including a second-floor room near the stairs, special medical equipment, and a sensor mat next to the bed to send out an alert if the elderly man got up in the middle of the night, as he is prone to wandering. Only after these preparations were made would it be safe for McLaughlin to be transferred.
However, things didn’t exactly go as planned. During the weekend, after McLaughlin’s family had returned to their homes, hospital staff discharged McLaughlin and sent him to a different care home, located in Totland. They did not notify the family of the move, so McLaughlin’s son, Ian, didn’t learn anything about the mix-up until Monday morning, when he called the hospital to check on his father.
Ian was informed that staff members were “trying to unpick the situation,” as the hospital protocol had not been followed during his father’s discharge. However, hospital rules were of little comfort to McLaughlin’s family, who were now concerned for his safety.
During the 19 hours that McLaughlin spent at the care facility in Totland without his family’s knowledge, he had none of his personal effects and no clothing apart from the pajamas he’d been sent with. On top of that, he didn’t have any of his medications, including insulin for his diabetes.
As soon as the mix-up was discovered, arrangements were made to get McLaughlin’s medications and personal items to him as quickly as possible, and, luckily, the elderly man suffered no severe health crises due to the absence of his prescriptions or because of the extra stress of being moved to an unfamiliar place. He was, however, rather shaken by the situation.
“My dad was so worried and confused because he didn’t know where he was going,” said Ian. “The decision to move into a care home was distressing enough — he’s a proud man — and the way he’s been treated is disgusting. It’s not acceptable.”
Mr. McLaughlin is too stressed to move to the care home his family originally intended him to go to and has chosen to remain in Totland. Ian says he and the rest of the family have nothing but good things to say about their dealings with the care staff in Totland and have therefore accepted their father’s decision not to move. However, they will now have an hours-long drive to visit him, making it more difficult to come on a regular basis.
“Our family lives the other side of the Island,” says Ian, “so it’s going to be a long journey for them to see him, but he does not want to move again.”
It’s a shame that so many people care so little for the elderly, who are among the most vulnerable of our society. While we are grateful that nothing catastrophic happened to Mr. McLaughlin during the time he spent without clothing or medication, we also hope his terrifying story will be a lesson to those who care for seniors not to take the job so lightly.
The family has lodged an official complaint against the hospital, and an investigation is underway.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?