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This week I answered the phone to one of our (relatively new) carers advising me that they had arrived at the home of their Service User and the gentleman - let’s call him ‘Bob’- had gone out. I asked how the carer knew that Bob had gone out. The carer replied he usually goes out on or just after pension day. When was pension day? I asked. ‘Yesterday’.
I felt like Angela Lansbury as I began to interrogate the carer. When did you last see Bob? How was he when you saw him at lunchtime? Did he mention he was going out? Where does Bob usually go? Have you checked with his neighbours? Did anyone see Bob leave his flat?
I asked the carer to wait right there as I rang Bobs house. No reply. I contacted the NOK who coolly responded “Bobs probably gone out”.
But “probably” is not enough.
I rang the carer back. The neighbour had not seen Bob this afternoon. We could not be 100% certain that Bob had left his flat. The NOK did not seem perturbed. “If he’s gone out he will be back later, don’t worry”. I explained that we could not be certain that Bob had not had a fall or come to some harm and that Bob was unable to reach his phone. In which case, every second counts to ascertain Bobs whereabouts. I confirmed I would check the local hospitals to see if he had been admitted and then I would contact the Police for a welfare check.
The NOK was understandably unhappy. “You mean you’ll get the door kicked in…. Is that really necessary?” I got the distinct impression that the NOK thought I was being overly dramatic and I can see why.
Thankfully the carer rang back to say that Bob was walking up the path completely unaware of the current commotion. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Our Service Users can stay in or go out as they so wish. I think it’s great to venture out especially whilst the weather is so wonderful. We know that certain Service Users enjoy a visit to their local pub, and some forget to come home - and why not? Home should not be a prison. But in those circumstances it is absolutely necessary to ensure a keysafe is fitted, so that carers can gain access and conduct a quick search to ensure the Service User has not come to any harm, when in reality they’re down the Nags Head enjoying the sunshine. Chaos and confusion avoided.
Vigilance is key
You must be vigilant as a Homecare provider. You should defend and protect a zero tolerance approach to assumptions on a persons whereabouts. Because assumptions can lead to fatal consequences.
You might take 100 of those phone calls that I did, and 99 times the Service User has gone out. But there will always be that one occasion when they haven’t and they desperately need urgent help and support. If you fail to act quickly are you willing to live with those consequences?