REPLACING MUM’S OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR
WHO HAS THE CHOICE
A CAREGIVERS QUESTION
Yesterday I went to see my Mum who resides in a care facility. I visit every day or every second day. Mum has COPD and associated non-specific dementia. her short term memory is terrible but mostly she is pretty good. She uses an oxygen concentrator 24 x7 and does not leave her room (agoraphobia). The facility which is under new management appears to have a new supplier for the Oxygen concentrators (no consultation or advice to residents or their representatives), and NOTE this is one of the best facilities I have seen.
When I arrived there was a replacement unit in her room. Bigger and noisier that her normal unit. She wanted her old one back. The reasons were. One she didn’t like it, two it was too noisy. She had a headache and we had trouble hearing one another over the noise and thirdly she could not hear the TV (her only distraction, as she has limited mobility and can no longer read – her eyesight is too poor).
Speaking with the RN on duty, she said she was aware a changeover had occurred but was not informed or involved in the process. Less than happy with that response I went to see the Nursing Supervisor.
I was advised that there had been a change of suppliers and these were the new units. When I mentioned the noise factor and that my Mum was sitting or lying within 4-6 inches of the machine, 24 x7 and that the noise level was unacceptable, the first response was that it was virtually a done deal and that was that.
Not the right response. The discussion became more forceful. I invited the Nursing Supervisor to sit in Mum’s chair for an hour and, consider how she would deal with the noise.
I was then offered the solution of placing the unit in the bathroom. A wet area – does anyone else consider this an OHS risk? Not only operating electrical equipment continuously in a wet area but, as Mum uses a walking frame and when accessing the bathroom at night she may become disorientated and fall as a result. Not a good idea.
Neither was the suggestion by the unhelpful company representative, who was still on the premises that she could use an Oxygen bottle (not an option for a number of reasons) until a quieter unit was sourced – no time frame for this to occur could be provided. This brilliant salesman suggested those were the only options take it or leave it.
What a wonderful representative of his company he was – full of empathy – NOT likely. He then proceeded to advise me that they had had to fill the order at short notice and that these machines were the best available.
The unit supplied was similar to a unit Mum had used in 2008 and I suspect may have been the same vintage. Could this possibly be that if there was a new tender, as no one including the manager seemed to know if the Facility had tendered for a new supplier. Was it possible the previous supplier had declined to renew their contract, that a version that would be rejected by persons in their own home because of the noise, was offloaded to a care facility?
Do I believe the manager did not know the circumstances – in a word? no.
Do I think older/noisier units were supplied to win a lower bid on the tender? yes, I do.
Could I be wrong? perhaps.
Was I disrespectful? possibly, however, I prefer the word forceful.
Was I angry? definitely.
Issues between the facility and providers of essential life extending equipment should not become a problem the person in care or their representative. There should also have been some consultation or advice that this was to occur.
The ultimatum I presented to the facility and the obnoxious salesperson, as their suggestions were unsafe or unworkable, was replace the unit, or we will hire independently or purchase a unit.
After much forceful negotiation, it was agreed the situation was untenable and they would replace the unit as soon as possible with a quieter unit. I requested Mum’s original unit be returned until this could occur.
When I left I am sure they rolled their eyes, glad to see the back of me as this discussion ended up taking place in the main foyer as I had no intention of having it in a private space.
Later that afternoon I was advised, via a phone call, that the matter had been reviewed. ALL UNITS would be replaced as soon as possible with a quieter units and that Mum’s original unit was back in her room. There are approx 12 residents affected by this action.
I was thanked (?) for bring the problem of the noise level to their attention.
My questions are:-
What would have happened had I not gone to visit Mum at that time yesterday?
What would have happened if the representative of the supplier had not been present in the building?
Why was there no consultation or advice with the residents or their representatives relating to changes of essential, life-extending equipment?
What would have happened to the other residents whose visitors are infrequent or who have no one to advocate for them?
My mother pays a considerable amount of money to this facility. She receives a minimal government subsidy. New management makes changes not all of the beneficial to the residents. I acknowledge that 95% of the time it is a great facility, and IT IS HER HOME.
Management was not simply changing the curtains or paint colour. They made a decision on a matter, literally about the provision of essential life-giving equipment, without consultation:
Management and staff would be well advised to remember,
YOUR RESIDENTS HOME IS YOUR WORKPLACE.
Not the other way around.
You are service providers and they are your clients.
*Image used is a generic image and is used to show what an oxygen concentrator machine looks like. It is not meant to represent a specific machine or company.