Where was the help? Pensioner lay undiscovered for three days

A CONCERNED daughter is calling for the OAP warden service to be reinstated after her mother lay undiscovered for three days following a fall at her home.

Patricia Matthews, 81, is now recovering in hospital, but her daughter Angie fears that the incident could have had a much worse outcome.

She believes that Mrs Matthews would have been found much sooner if she had still been receiving a daily visit from a warden to her Tickhill bungalow.

“They need to put the warden back in place. They pay for this service so why cut it?” said Angie, who lives in London, and found the daily visits by the warden reassuring, as her widowed mother has no relatives in the Doncaster area.

Mrs Matthews had been issued with an emergency pendant - the replacement for warden visits - but was not wearing it when she fell out of bed on Monday, July 25.

Angie explained that her mum had not been well on the Sunday prior to her fall and the following day she had become concerned that she couldn’t reach her mum by phone so contacted the police who visited Mrs Matthew’s home and found her safe. “She was OK but she was in bed with her nightie on,” she explained.

Angie has since found out that her mum fell out of bed and was unable to get up so she crawled into the bathroom believing that she would be able to lever herself upright using the side of the bath.

“She then fell into the bath with her legs hanging over the edge,” she said.

“She was there for three days. It was from Monday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon when her cleaner found her. I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t been found then.”

Angie had been trying to contact her mum by phone, but the line was engaged, leading her to believe that her mum was fine and chatting to friends. In fact, Mrs Matthews had knocked the bedside telephone off the hook as she fell out of bed.

The incident left Mrs Matthews suffering severe trauma. She required a CT scan as she had hit her head when she fell. She was bruised down her spine, suffering from severe dehydration and was very muddled. She was also suffering from an infection, which may have caused her to feel unwell prior to the fall.

Angie said that her mum wasn’t wearing her pendant, but felt that she probably wasn’t the only older person who didn’t wear the device in bed, or was perhaps a bit forgetful.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Angie.

“Is it going to take an old person to die? This is a life-saving service.”

She said that Mrs Matthews had enjoyed a daily visit from a warden to check that she was OK and provide some social contact for many years, until the service was withdrawn recently.

Scrapping the warden service, which served 4,000 older people, was part of a budget cuts package instigated by Doncaster Council earlier this year. The move was estimated to save £1 million a year and the council claimed it would be more modern, flexible and responsive to the needs of local people.

As well as the pendant alarm system, which can be used inside and outside the home, for example in the garden, the council also plans to use a volunteer befriending service to provide social contact.

But council workers’ union Unison branded the move a “ a disaster for vulnerable people in Doncaster”.

Joan Beck, the council’s director of adults and communities, said: “Ensuring the health, well-being and safety of vulnerable adults in Doncaster is a top priority for the council. As well as the pendant alarm system, we offer residents a wide variety of tailored telecare solutions designed to ensure their well-being and independence.

“Had Mrs Matthews been wearing her pendant at the time of her fall she would have been able to access assistance from our contact centre immediately. This emphasises how important it is for citizens with a pendant to wear it at all times in order to get the full benefit of the service.

“We will be happy to work with Mrs Matthews and her family to discuss any concerns about her current care arrangements and will look to recommend additional solutions where appropriate.”