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Grandma's been in prison

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 11 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1174
  1. Janet Jenkins, consultant anaesthetist
  1. Edinburgh

    It all began during the October holiday week. Grandma, who is now 89 and has coped very well on her own, fell during the night, pressed her alarm call button, and was admitted to the local hospital. In the casualty department everything was normal, but instead of immediately returning her home she was admitted.

    We found her in the assessment ward on our return from holiday. Over the next two weeks she spent a lot of time sitting in an armchair pinned in place by a bed table and wrapped up in a rug. She made occasional sorties to the toilet, but was spectacularly inactive despite intermittent physiotherapy. There was simply nothing she needed to do. Everything was provided: meals, baths, toiletry needs, etc. We asked if the chiropodist could visit and if a hair do could be arranged, but these services were available only once every three months. It was therefore chance whether or not she would be there.

    By now all existing home support services had disappeared — the home help, the gardener and general handyman, the fish man who called once a week, and the local shop owner who delivered regular groceries. Her pension would soon be altered if …

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