Shortly after 1 am on Sunday morning mum’s bed sensor woke me. At the same time, I heard a gentle thud. I discovered mum on her knees with her head on the floor next to her bed. A bit shaken, she complained of a sore knee. As I helped mum up, I noticed a nasty cut on her left hand.

Told to take mum to A&E

The wound was around 5 cm long and 3/4 cm wide. It looked too serious for me to dress, so I phoned NHS Direct Wales to find out what to do. After answering lots of questions I was told to take mum to A&E. I had already told the call handler that mum had dementia, but this didn’t seem to influence her advice. I put a temporary dressing on the wound to stop the bleeding and off we went.

It was around 2 am when we arrived at A&E at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend. I left mum in the car and went to find a wheelchair. There were none available. After the woman in reception had taken mum’s details, I went back to get mum.

Kindness of strangers

Throughout the ordeal that was to follow, I was touched by the kindness of patients, relatives and staff. A woman came to help me get mum from the car to A&E. The receptionist left her post to find a wheelchair in an area out of bounds to us. When I returned from the toilet, I noticed a woman had moved to sit next to mum to watch over her. There was a silent sense of solidarity between those in the waiting room, particularly for people who seemed vulnerable.

After around two hours we were called to see a nurse who assessed the injury, checked mum’s vital signs, and put on a temporary dressing. We were sent back out to the waiting room to await a specialist who would apply paper stitches. Up until this point mum was patient and understanding. She didn’t know where we were, but appreciated my repeated explanations that she’d cut her hand and we were at A&E waiting for treatment.

Mum started getting restless

After four hours mum was getting restless. She kept asking why we were there, if we could get a bus or a boat. She needed to get home. Her parents would be worried. She asked if she could catch a bus back to the UK. She was disorientated.

There were people crying. A woman came in breathing heavily, crying and shaking. Mum seemed oblivious to most things, but she noticed this poor woman. Another woman quietly cried and sniffed in the seat behind mum, as her friend tried to comfort her. A child was carried through the doors to A&E.

Mum kept thinking she was there to keep me company and so started getting grumpy with me. At times, I’m afraid, I reciprocated. As mum’s distress and questions grew, I kept asking the receptionist how long it would be. Initially there were two people ahead of us waiting for the same specialist. I found out who they were and felt concern for them when I discovered they had been in A&E since 11 pm and 11.30 pm respectively. I didn’t think we’d be waiting that long.

Mum next to be seen

Eventually mum was at the front of the queue, she would be seen next. Then there was a major incident. For about two hours she would be seen next. I relayed all the responses to mum but this one wasn’t to change. “Mum you will be seen next, it won’t be long,” I sounded like a broken record.

Eventually, around 8.30 am mum was called. A specialist nurse assessed what was needed. Another more junior nurse carried out the task of applying paper stitches to mum’s hand. When the nurse’s handiwork was checked we were finally able to leave A&E. It was around 9.00 am.

When we got home, mum was disturbed to discover her parents weren’t there. She burst into tears as it dawned on her they were dead. She was exhausted and emotional. So was I.

Did it need to be like this?

Did it need to be like this? Are there policies to support people with dementia in A&E? Could the woman at NHS Direct referred us to a paramedic or first responder so mum could have stayed at home? At A&E there seemed to be no allowance for the fact that mum had dementia. I asked if they had dementia-friendly policies. I’m not sure I wanted mum to have priority over other patients, already waiting over four hours themselves, but why did any of us have to wait such a long time?

14 thoughts on “Saturday night and Sunday morning in A&E

  1. After writing a reply to your comment, I just visited your site to see you had posted, and what an awful time you had. It’s appalling that someone who is ill, never mind the added distress of having dementia, is left waiting for so long. Your mum’s wound could have been dressed long before and you could have left. It sounds like the system has really broken down doesn’t it? I’m so sorry you had such a difficult time and I hope your mum is better and you’ve had a chance to rest. xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sally. Yes, it was really difficult, not just for mum but for me too. I’m very lucky that I get lots of support but I’m conscious this sort of experience could push someone already struggling over the edge. I was lucky my sister takes mum for five hours on a Sunday. The idea of looking after mum, who didn’t seem tired, on just a couple of hours sleep would have been too much for me. I can’t say I’m well rested yet. Mum was up much of last night but at least I have a night sitter tonight. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds truly awful, dear Julia. I’m so sorry. Bless you. Praying you can both recover and get over this traumatic experience. Love to you and June, both, JillXX

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It wasn’t great. Most the time it felt manageable but got increasingly stressful as time went on. I don’t think mum fully caught up with her sleep until last night. It’s all very disorientating for her. Hope all is well with you. x


  3. I have been following your blog for sometime as I also have a mother with dementia, I have found hospitals are not helpful in any way and things need to change. On another note I must live close to you as my local hospital is Bridgend, I live in Porthcawl

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Janet

      I’m mostly very happy with the the Princess of Wales as my experience has been mostly positive. I have been admitted twice and my mum more often. The only things that haven’t gone well were down to shortage of staff, so I feel warmly towards the hospital.

      That’s a coincidence, we live in Newton. Mum and I are forever going for walks on all the beaches, and on the Porthcawl front. Do you ever get any time off, perhaps we should meet for a coffee to exchange experiences? Julia


      1. Yes would love to meet my mother still lives at home with Carer’s and myself and my brother visit a few times a week my mother lives in Tredegar so not easy with an hour travelling each way. Let me know when you are free xx

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes an hour each way adds a lot to the support you give.

        So that we don’t share our contact details here can I ask you to use the contact box to give me your email or number so we can make an arragement to meet for coffee. That would be lovely. Julia


  4. I know this one only too well. Spent 7 3/4 hours till 1am in A/E with my husband who has Fronto Temporal Dementia. All tests were done for Jead injury, and we congratulated ourselves that they were done in under 2 hours.. How wrong we were.
    Nobody’s seemed to care about the Dementia, and the effect it was having on him. He has behavioural variant so he Communicates fairly well. 2 separate staff nurses said oh it must be mild, and the well spoken Dr spoke far too quickly and fired questions at my husband who is unable to respond to them. I tried to respond but was ignored. I tried to explain that Dementia patients need more time and understanding, but was told he was very busy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh dear Mary this really is unacceptable. Someone living with dementia and any disability that slows ability to understand and process information should be given the time they need. These instances highlight the bigger challenges in the health system that is buckling under the pressure. If doctors and nurses are overstretched they will never be able to provide the additional support or take the extra time that is essential to meet the needs of people living with dementia. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Hospitals do find it hard to respond adequately to people with dementia – especially difficult when they are admitted alone of course. It does seem possible in A&E to allocate a quieter place for people with disabilities such as dementia or autism for whom noise, confusion, emotional outbursts etc. can be distressing – adding to the existing trauma everyone feels!
    One of our local care homes seems to send residents with dementia to A&E alone as they don’t have staff available – imagine how that could go…

    Liked by 2 people

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