Call the doctor

My client had been suffering from a chest infection. This is very serious for my client as she has difficulties swallowing and struggles to breathe, so she is sitting at a 45 degree angle at all times - except when washing and changing clothes. My client is also nil by mouth and is PEG fed. She had been prescribed antibiotics and this was doing the job of clearing her chest.

At the start of an early shift my client seemed fine and she was indicating that she felt OK by a thumbs up, which was her only means of communicating at that time. As the day wore on I began to see a change in her - she was becoming more lethargic and kept falling asleep. To get my client to lift a leg or indicate if she felt OK was getting harder but she kept indicating that she was alright. I called the community matron for advice as she had been out to see my client the day before.

The community matron kept asking me if my client looked or was worse than the day before. I had to explain that I wasn't working the day before, so I could only go on how my client was going today and I felt that she wasn't well. The community matron said that she may call round later but in the meantime to give my client paracetamol. I asked my client if she would like some paracetamol and she gave a thumbs up.

During this particular shift I was working with an agency worker who didn't speak English very well, so I didn't feel I had anyone I could discuss the situation with. I called the case manager and explained - she advised me to call the GP for a home visit if I wasn't happy with how my client was doing. By this time it was the end of my shift, so at handover I explained to the member of staff relieving me what my concerns were, what the community matron had said and what the case manager had advised.

In the end, the GP was called and my client was admitted to hospital with suspected pneumonia. Even though my client was indicating that she was OK and even shook her head when I asked whether she wanted to see a doctor I knew there was something wrong as she was too quiet.

My client got the treatment she needed in time but I think I could have acted sooner and had the confidence to follow my instincts, which I will do in the future.

Experience of a support worker in the Sheffield area

Posted: February 2014

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