Dirty Anglais

I very rarely post, think this may be my second time, but tonight still incandescent - that much overused journo word - about this morning's incident which makes today one when 'je deteste les Francais'.

Saturday morning is the day when a nurse from our local nursing practice comes to give my 83-year-old mother her shower. A couple of weeks ago she came to do my mother's shower - the whole point being that I at 59, with back problems, don't feel capable owing to long history of mother falling - and mother fell ... on her watch. Mother's skin is very fragile so we have since had nurses in every other morning to dress the wounds. But we make no fuss.

This morning, Patricia arrives, all very jolly, shower duly accomplished (sans injury) - she proceeds to lecture me that my mother's trousers are dirty and in future she must have clean clothes to wear. My mother has worn these trousers and top for three days *(all other items fresh), she spills morsels of food at every meal, but nothing worse by way of soiling. As it is I am sole laundry maid for bedding and clothes, have to empty and clean her commode chair each morning, dispense her tablets and more. I'm also 'informed' I must call the doc on Monday as she has inflamed skin and is scratching - though, as I explain, she has a tablet for this and cream. I might as well talk to the wall. Off swans Patricia, pleased with her French superiority. And I have seethed all day at being basically told that my mother's clothes are dirty and that I'm not looking after her properly. When my life and that of my husband, when we hoped for some retirement moments together, are totally dominated by my mother's needs.

On a day like this, when the weather had finally agreed to be something like June, our paradise, hard created over nine years, when we have never sought to impose ourselves - is no longer paradise. Why, at 59 - and my husband 66 - do people still talk to us and treat us as if we know nothing? Je pas.

I was a full time carer for my mother for ten years before she passed away last year. Fortunately she could wash and dress herself up until her death. If however that had not been the case our council could have provided a person to come in and help her wash and dress if needed. Indeed after a stay in hospital we used this service for a while. I wonder if the French care system can provide a similar service for you. Don't worry to much about domineering people like Patricia I have met more than my fair share here in Wales.

I can imagine not much came of it Angela as what I found trying to get social services help to get my mum into care. I tried replying earlier and having a few computer blips so will keep this brief (hurrah says everyone). I just wanted to say thank you for your points 1 & 2 as will probably become a mantra that helps keep me sane. A very good summary of many of the points of the past three surreal days - never wildly imagined such a response but it does give a valuable perpective.

Alongside mum, yesterday was manic as son and four friends 'passing through' , complicated airport runs, car blips etc, then Thursday my mum's cousin comes for a week - then to Blighty for son's graduation - so I may be a while following up some of the many suggestions. But anything useful I glean I will post in hopes that it might be reciprocal help. I hope you too can get some more help - there's a lot of hot air about dementia, carers and we're all living longer etc, but seems it doesn't seem to translate to those at the coal-face (I reiterate my mum doesn't have dementia as such though signs are there so arguably I'm in an easier place ...) Bon courage to you - debbie

Hi Deborah,

I am in a similar situation, but in the UK, having returned here in order to look after my mother. My experiences are sometimes very similar with British nurses and carers. Some nurses like to criticise you as it seems to boulster their own self-worth. Two things I do to feel better about things when this sort of stuff happens:-

1)I don't set the bar too high on my own expectations as a carer, (i.e. it is good enough to be doing your best, and if there's some minor imperfection in your performance, then so be it, you are being "Good Enough". )Evaluate your performance in terms of your own criteria, (so this could be something like a) mother content, comfortable and well nourished, b) my husband and I doing the best we can to enjoy our lives as well as we can in the circumstances that we have chosen (I am assuming you have chosen to look after your mother and there are some benefits to doing so).

2) If someone's being a critical old moo, then to some extent there's bound to be some reason to do with them, behind it. They're maybe having a bad day at the office.

I tried to get information here about help available at home to help me with my mother (dimentia) but unfortunately not much came of it, so I'd be interested to see if anything comes to light in response to your post.

Hope you can access some respite support,


Many people on SFN run B&Bs and hotels. I am sure if you have a guest who is not happy with their stay, you will get a complaint. I have always advised people to complain...whether its about treatment in hospital, the attitude of the staff, cleanliness, anything that isnt right should be written down and sent to the chief executive and a copy to the chairman. Hospitals take written complaints seriously because they have no option and it can affect their star status.

I worked at Basingstoke Hospital for years and it was a very good district hospital. To the point where I would recommend it to family and friends...and indeed ensured my children were born there and any treatment they needed was carried out there. However, it missed out on top star rating twice, it failed because of its lack of action on complaints...not that there were a lot of complaints, but it was found the hospital were not sufficiently polite and were too aggresive in dealing with these complaints. They learnt. My friend recently had a hip replacement just before I did. She wasnt impressed with the attitude of the consultant who basically said her complaints of terrible pain were her being a 'baby with pain'. I encouraged her to complain and she was visited by one of the PALS team at home. (patient advice and liaison team) which now exist in all NHS hospitals.

Her complaint was fed through to the CEO and she received an apology from both the CEO and the consultant. He was very polite to my friend at her post surgery check up.

If you are not happy with treatment, complain loudly, clearly and make sure your complaint is followed through. Its the way behaviours are changed and care improves.

I too had terrible treatment in Gloucester Royal. I was admitted as an urgent case with facial cellulitis. I was sent from A E in Stroud and told not to even go home to get my things. I was then left on a trolley for an hour despite the swelling on my face getting closer to my eye.

My intravenous antibiotic needle came unstuck and when I asked for that to be reinserted, I was told that they could not do that as I was going to be transferred to the private hospital in a few hours.

Dirty dishes were left for hours and the linen with my blood on it when the needle came out of my Arm on it was left on the floor by my bed for hours.

There was another lady who had broken her ankle whilst on holiday and had the fracture reduced and was there for an operation.The cast had been taken off and was under her bed. She had no other support than a pillow. She would have been better off at home with frozen peas on her ankle. The specialist came to see her before discharge, only to find that she had not been operated on! They were older people who felt that the staff knew best and were afraid to complain.

I have had terrible treatment here in France, but now have a good MT.

I queried these questions on my training session at Croydon....how often counts as a tick with regard to getting AA I asked.....the answer came back....7 times. I started to feel this was the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy instead of an AA form!

Oh dear...what a shame. I am constantly surprised to hear some people have nothing but bad experiences...whereas others have good experiences. I had superb treatment for both my sons in the NHS...my babies were delivered at Basingstoke hospital, delivered as I requested...Leboyer deliveries...dark room, music playing, no drugs... frankly until my hip recently I had no complaints regarding the NHS. Certainly my dad who had 3 heart attacks, had obstructive airways disease gushed about how great the service was...ditto my mother and my inlaws...all of whom had a lot of hospital care at one time or another. My only experience in France was when we initially registered with our new GP...he had both my husband and I in his consulting room at the same time and went through our health records, I wasnt impressed...patient confidentiality should extend to partners as well....there may well have been previous health issues I hadnt shared with my husband.

I reckon we must have a book here! Don't think I can match yours Sandra but the bit about the ceiling struck a chord. I was taken into a grim Victorian hospital in Sheffield in 71 aged 17, wih appendicitis. (The locum had said it was pleurisy but my elderly ex-nurse aunt happened to be visiting and said no way). Parents had to walk up the village to the telephone box (still button A and button B) to call an ambulance. The appendix was close to bursting (I was told later) but they still made me wait on a slab for 3 hours and I was quizzed as to whether I was pregnant. Duly operated on but instead of being chucked out after 5 days, I had an 'infection' so kept in. One day the surgeon came round with 6 medical students and said why wouldn't my temperature go down? I said, thought you should tell me this. Then he said turn over and put his gloves on. Gamut of expressions on student faces. Think you can guess the next bit - could I sue for historical abuse? No result, three days later my temperature went down and feet didn't touch the ground as bum-rushed out (pardon pun). A week later the ward was hit by fire and burnt out. I was later told by another medic I should never have been let out with no result on the infection. I thank God that it didn't affect birth of son, even if it did take him 20 years - but he's a determined chap.

As I said before Doreen, boy do I feel for you - and hope that with all this information flying backwards and forward - truly the positive side of the internet - that you too will get more help. As I've said, don't think, my mum has dementia (though the dog does!) but can still be hurtful. I wonder how you cope - and how I would if it was my beloved hubby. I only know how I felt when his bypass thing hit out of the blue. I would want to do what you are doing but you can't help but feel robbed ins some way I guess. You no doubt like all the other decent unheard people have worked hard through life towards an old age together - but now this. I feel in a strange position as an ex journalist, aware of how many voices go unheard and moved by this tide of unleashed stories just from my little rant - good and bad. I'd like to marshal them to the good ... more to work on, but then there's always th laundry, the commode bucket etc, well you know ...

He's actually called Lucky and has worn the name out over 14 years - you made me laugh out loud with that one!

I don't see the NHS as a success.

Even back in 1964 when I had a tonsillectomy at Gloucester Royal Hospital we would wake up in the morning with bits of ceiling on our beds which had fallen off during the night. My aunt - only used to the private system - when visiting me was horrified at the condition of the building. Even in those days, I had to wait for six months for a consultant appointment and in the end my father paid for me to see the consultant sooner privately in February 1964. I was then offered an operation the next week until my father said that the op would be on the NHS. This operation date then changed to July 1964.

By two separate London hospitals, in Marylebone and Ealing, I was told I could not have children as I had damaged ovaries. In 1977 - in spite of this double diagnosis - I had an abortion in the same named Gloucester hospital as the tonsillectomy which by then had moved to a new building. In spite of feeling very unwell I was forced to go home as they said they were short of beds. I collapsed later that afternoon in a Gloucester street and was rushed back in by ambulance. I had a severely infected womb because of the complete foetus not having been removed and was very ill. For several days things were looking grim. I was told I would probably be unable to have children because my fallopian tubes had been affected. I subsequently had three children.

After a hysteretomy and repair work in 1988 I again became infected while I was in hospital. After several days I was given penicillin in spite of the fact that it was written in green capital letters on my bed papers that I was allergic to that drug. I was very ill and finally discharged myself as I really didn't think that being in hospital was conducive to a long life.

I could go on. but I won't. The only good experience I have ever had was in the in patient Dental Department when I had to have emergency surgery while I was heavily pregnant with my second son. Everyone was marvellous and I couldn't have had better care. Unfortunately, this event stands out as one good one in a myriad of rubbish treatment in NHS hospitals.

Doreen you will pretty much be guaranteed higher rate if your OH needs help at night....that requires you getting up.

Truth is Sandra that the NHS has become a victim of its own success. Practicing prevention would be wonderful, but with a large population intent on making themselves ill by over eating, smoking, taking drugs and drinking too much alcohol, this would only be possible if the UK went via the French route and everyone had to take out insurance.

I've had five operations here since November 2009 and am due another in September this year. They have been at Yves le Foll hospital in St Brieuc and Clinic du Littoral also in St Brieuc. The treatment by all levels of staff at the hospital has been brilliant and respect seems to be the byword which works the magic. Obviously all tests are done quickly and results appear as if by magic within hours because this is France. The nurses who see me at home for blood tests, anti coag jabs etc are without exception pleasant, chatty and efficient. My GP/MT speaks perfect English and although my french is more than adequate she likes to practise with me. She too is charming and nothing is too much trouble and appointments are never rushed. I couldn't be happier with my health care here in Brittany. I love the fact that here they like to act for prevention rather than for cure. Experiences I had in Cornwall, Gloucester and London were dreadful and I would never willingly go back to England especially as I get older and probably will have to call more and more on the services of these brilliant people.

here's a link to attendance allowance which is available to anyone over 65. i applied on behalf of my mother and am not the greatest form filler but there is a helpline that you can call and they are very helpful ...


this a a pension so any assistance from the social services will need to me submitted through the local health authority and is quite an arduous process. it took my brother and i a lot of effort to get financial help for our mother who was assessed by a social worker, but they are supportive but greatly underfunded which limits what they can do.

good luck ....

I usually suggest the Citizens Advice Bureau who have a lot of experience filling in these forms... I dare say now you could find the advice you need for form completion on Google....its a case of searching it out! good luck.

Maybe if you called him Mohammad?

thanks Carol, another really helpful suggestion. Can't say I'm surprised, this is exactly what I came up against when trying to get mum back home, you feel as if it's all trick questions. But when someone with your experience hits the same thing, it's a bit boggling. I'll have a hard think about getting that help as no doubt it will be all the harder being here. Isn't that crazy that if your loved one can't cook or shop for themselves you get turned down - but I know the hoops disabled and others are going through so not shocked. A Girl called Jack recently did a post whereby she showed that her 3-year-old son would be deemed eligible to work under the new disability assessment rules. I've now got go and walk moaning, groaning grumpy old jack Russell - perhaps I'd have better luck getting an allowance for him!

Deborah...I am going to suggest you get help filling the AA form if you are not used to completing them. I had to fill them out....and thought as a nurse, social worker and with extensive experience in hospitals, homes and community with elderly and people with disabilities, it would be easy. I had a lot turned down and in the end went to Croydon for a days course at one of the offices that receives the completed forms and says yay or nay....! A real eye opener.....4 hours later and I never had another form turned down...but there is an art to filling them in....for instance....if you say your mother cant shop or cook for herself you get a great big nada.....but if you say she spills food on her clothes and you have to take care of that for her...you get a tick....its based on the fact that a person is entitled to their dignity. You also have to fill in the form as if its the worst type of day....not when the person is at their best...but at their very worst. I would suggest you find someone who has experience of filling these in...otherwise you will be playing ping pong with the form for months.