With more and more of our elderly population choosing to stay at home when care is needed, it is becoming obvious that the existing model for domiciliary care providers needs to be revised and updated to help prevent frequent, and sometimes unnecessary, hospital admissions and re-admissions.
Many of these hospital admissions are due to the quiet and stealthy killer called Sepsis. 37,000 people die of this every year in the UK and signs in the elderly are difficult to detect. Sepsis causes a rapid rise in temperature and left unchecked can cause organ failure, strokes and heart attacks. A rapid response is required not least because it is costing £3 billion a year.
With agency care staff at the frontline – right there with an elderly person, often on a daily basis – it makes sense to empower them with the training and facility to undertake basic clinical observations of vital signs - for example, temperature, blood pressure and respiration. Even vague symptoms such as weakness and confusion can also be a sign. It's easy to see why many healthcare professionals call it the "ninja disease".
Training courses are now springing up to meet this challenge. Alongside the technical training, home care providers and their staff are encouraged to place an emphasis on alertness to even the slightest changes in a client's manner and behaviour. An agency can swiftly call on the Community District Nurse Team who can then administer what is required without the need for hospitalisation.
And here is the perfect example of how it recently worked:
A homecare manager who completed the course was visiting one of his clients. He knows this client and her routines very well. It was the hottest week of the year and she wasn't faring so well, understandably. The client was eating her cornflakes with her usual bowl and spoon, but she was – on this day – slightly missing her mouth. A small thing, and could easily have been put down to the heat, but the manager had learned that a reduction in motor function can be a sign of rising temperature which in turn can be a red flag for Sepsis.
The client was treated in time and the manager has since invested £1,000 in equipment and further training in order to embrace this new level of sophistication in his sector.
Good homecare providers know their clients better than anyone – we need to acknowledge this and provide the tools and training to save more lives.