‘They never told us she screamed through the night in pain’

Sonia Dixon says her great-great grandmother Doreen Tilly was failed by Scotland's care system after complaint upheld.

A woman whose great-great grandmother died in agony just three months after she was removed from her care home says her relative was “let down” by staff and the care system.

Sonia Dixon’s complaint about standards of care at Woodside Court care home in Glenrothes, Fife, has been upheld by the Care Inspectorate, who found 101-year-old Doreen Tilly’s healthcare and needs were “not being sufficiently monitored”, which “impacted negatively on her safety and wellbeing.”

Doreen went to live with Sonia and within two weeks she was in pain and agony as a result of not being able to go to the toilet.

Sonia told STV News: “We realised quickly there was a problem with constipation that hadn’t been picked up by the home. They said she’d had a sore bottom for quite a long time and that was never investigated further.”

Sonia had concerns that problems with her nan’s bowels had been happening for a long time, but claims care home staff never made mention of Doreen’s cries for help when she made the move to live with Sonia in February this year.

“She seemed well the day she came out, it looked like a happy story, we were so grateful,” said Sonia. “But it was all tainted by this constant pain. We are glad we got her out, she was happy to be out, but I wish we had done it sooner.

“We were assured my nan would receive proper care, that never happened, it was like she hit a certain age and they thought ‘she’s old anyway there’s not much more we can do’.

“They never told us she screamed through the night in pain, all day. She had some good days, if she eventually went to the toilet, before it started again.

“There was a couple of nice times, but all of it was overshadowed by her in pain and suffering. She experienced delirium, chronic constipation… I can’t understand how nurses at the home never picked this up.”

Various doctors came to assess Doreen while she was living with Sonia but she passed away in May.

Sonia took her concerns to the Care Inspectorate and filed complaints about Doreen’s care. After a full investigation, these were upheld. A rarity, as on average only about 12% of complaints to the independent scrutiny body are upheld.

They found there was insufficient evidence to show staff were monitoring Doreen’s healthcare needs. Fluid monitoring was poor – on one occasion only 370 millilitres of fluid was provided for an entire day.

Records show Doreen had just one bowel movement over a 32-day period. But staff did not take any further steps to establish why she was in pain.

When asked how Sonia feels about the home and staff now, she replied: “I’m so angry, they let her down so bad. She was a kind, good woman and did not deserve that.

“She was in pain for the last year of her life for no reason, I am so angry that was missed.

“I understand its hard for the carers, but it’s the whole care system. There’s a lot of issues needing addressed that are brushed under the carpet and hidden. The problem is much bigger than my nan’s home.

“Our issues didnt start with the pandemic, our issues started before.”

Sonia says the whole system needs to be overhauled, and care homes should face tougher punishments if complaints are upheld.

“The care home is told this isn’t right…here’s the recommendations, and that’s it, there’s no consequences for failure of care homes, nothing happens.

“We need to raise awareness of problems in care homes. It already happened to my nan, it shouldn’t happen to any other family.”

It comes as an honest conversation around the future of social care is being encouraged by the Scottish Government, who are taking the first steps to establish a national care service.

Dr Donald Macaskill of Scottish Care told STV News, “All of us recognise the (care) system was broken, we endeavour to change things. The pandemic shone a light on some of the challenges that were there before, but were clearly there in magnitude during the pandemic.

“So the proposals and consultation on Monday is an opportunity to build that vision of what a social care future for Scotland could look like.

A spokesperson for Woodside Court Care Home told STV News: “Doreen was a beloved resident and our priority is to deliver the best possible care for each resident, so we deeply regret and apologise for falling short on this occasion.”

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