Council apologise after daughter was left in waiting room while mother died alone in care home

A care home resident died alone while her daughter was left in a waiting room, a watchdog has found.

The daughter suffered “avoidable distress” by not being informed her mother was dying and not being prepared by staff before entering the room to see her, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said.

The watchdog added that the mother potentially suffered avoidable distress as she “was alone in her final moments of life with no support from care staff or the nurse” in August 2019.

Neither of the women are identified in the report which looked at a complaint against Surrey County Council in relation to the incident at Puttenham Hill Care Home.

The council has agreed to apologise to the daughter, referred to as Mrs X, and make a “symbolic payment of £500” within one month of the report’s publication on Tuesday.

Mrs X complained the care home had delayed in calling emergency services, did not have appropriate staff, and did not protect her mother’s dignity when she was dying, provide appropriate care or communicate with the family adequately.

The report stated: “Mrs X says this caused her avoidable distress.

“She found her mother’s body unexpectedly, causing her significant shock at the time and alarm that such a situation could have occurred.”

The agency nurse looking after the care home resident told paramedics who attended what had happened, but did not speak to the daughter or offer her any sympathy, the ombudsman said.

The nurse is no long used by the care provider, the ombudsman added.

A coroner’s inquest concluded the woman died from a brain haemorrhage, and the coroner’s officer acknowledged “it would be difficult for staff to predict this type of event”.

The ombudsman’s investigation criticised the care home’s record-keeping of the events that happened, with discrepancies about when emergency phone calls were made.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King said: “The daughter was not able to be with her mother as she died and her mother should not have been alone in the final moments of her life.

“Nobody should be left to find their mother in this way when they could have been prepared for the situation.

“But I cannot imagine the distress caused for this to then be compounded by a lack of compassion by care staff in the immediate aftermath.

“The council has already gone some way to investigating the daughter’s complaints, and I hope the further recommendations I have made should ensure that relatives are better considered when loved ones are receiving end of life care.”

The council has been told that, within three months of the date of the report it must ensure all care staff, nurses and care assistants, at the home receive training in communication skills around bereavement.

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