When we were priced out of London, we moved to Yorkshire, where my husband had relatives.
We thought he was clear of cancer, but with only a year to the all-clear 5 year period, it came back – aggressively and at multiple sites. The Consultant said he could go at any time and only had a few months at max.
The care he received in Harrogate was excellent, almost too good in retrospect, because in the last few months of his life, the care went into reverse, but I only worked that out after his death. Recently I read a book called “Strategy” by Seven, in which a tactic is listed. That is to do something so as to create the expection of it, then go into reverse.
He was doing well. He had outlived by months the Consultant’s most optimistic prediction, and although he had bad days when he couldn’t do anything much, on good days we would get in the car and he would take me out for a drive. Then I had a flu jab which made me very ill, which was odd because the previous year I had had a jab which had no ill-effects at all. A few days later he got his first lung infection, the first of 6 in total, one after the other. It was then I noticed the nurses were arriving in pairs and diving through the door without knocking, the procedure when elder abuse is suspected. I wondered if one of the relatives who sometimes drove him to hospital (I cannot drive) had lied about me. Two months after his first lung infection a speech therapist came to look at him and said he was swallowing his food alright, but liquids were going straight into his lungs. I wondered why they had not alerted us to that possibility earlier.
On one doctors visit, she said that no air was going into one lung. I thought nothing of it at the time as she didn’t say anything else, but my husband told me later that a look of alarm had crossed her face. But she did not suggest any treatment.
A week or two later, he had a fit. It looked like a stroke although not so severe. A doctor and nurse and a relative came out and discussed whether he should go to hospital or not. He was confused, not quite with the conversation and kept trying to show them he could not lift his arm. Also his feet had become very swollen. At one point he commented he was in pain. He had fitted the moment he had got up so had not taken his morning medication. The relative leapt to her feet and got him his morphine before I could move. She then made a great show out of changing his clothes. Again, he had fitted the moment he got up so his morning routine had not happened.
By now I was starting to be concerned about the medical response to his condition. I have no medical background whatsoever, and my husband’s illness was complicated, so there had seemed to be little point on second-guessing the professionals with training and experience. But I didn’t understand why he was getting a null response to crises. I looked up the medical diagnostic on my computer. It told me no air in one lung indicates heart failure in one part of the heart. The medical treatment is diuretics and drugs to strengthen the heart. Swollen feet indicate heart failure in the other part of the heart. Together they make congestive heart failure. His stroke was a mini stroke. He was prescribed steroids and loaned a nebuliser. That was all.
My husband was now experiencing on-going distress due to lack of oxygen. Sometimes this made him very irrational and abusive as if he was very drunk. On those occasions if I took him out in his wheelchair it helped, but the weather was very cold that year, temperatures slightly above freezing, so I couldn’t always do that.
When it got to the stage where he couldn’t eat, he was taken into a nursing home. I couldn’t bear to stay in the empty flat and moved out to a hotel until my alternative accommodation was available. On one visit back to the house I found all my husbands documentation had gone. I thought the relative must have taken it but I don’t know how she got in as I had both keys.
Several other bizarre events between myself and this relative led me to make an enquiry on Wikipedia for an explanation for the relative’s behaviour. They told me it was “gaslighting” an expression I had never heard of before. When I researched gaslighting I discovered the term “gang stalking” which explained the harassment and odd events I had experienced from University to the present day.
Nothing could have prolonged my husband’s life. With a cancerous tumour blocking his throat, others in his brain, kidney, lung and bones, and he had already exceeded the Consultant’s best prediction by 6 months. But I believe his last 3 months need not have been so distressing. The lung infections might not have happened if we had been warned of liquids going straight into his lungs when drinking. After the first one he was never well enough to get out of the house and go for a drive. I do not believe he got the appropriate treatment when he showed signs of heart failure and had his mini-stroke. And I see no reason why he couldn’t have been given oxygen, unless the intention was to allow him to become irrational and non-cooperative so as to create an”incident” that could be used to back up the slander of elder abuse.
From this experience I realise that the situation of a non-medically qualified carer is very vulnerable. Looking after someone who has been weakened by illness is the easy part. It is just common sense and consideration. But you cannot tell when a variation in the ill person’s condition is to be expected or something that requires medical intervention that would help. And their condition is fluctuating all the time. It changes from day to day, and throughout the day. You are not a nurse, but you need to be one. In the same year that my husband died allegations of elder abuse in Harrogate increased by 11 percent.