12 April 2022


We had a lovely day out on Saturday.  Lunch in one of our favourite restaurants in Chinon with friends followed by wine tasting at one of our favourite wineries on their open weekend.

Tulips by the river in Chinon.

I was driving, Nick was doing the tasting, and with a carful of people my mobile was in my bag in the boot of the car, nestled amongst coats and wine boxes.  

Consequently I didn’t hear it ring just after 6pm French time. There was no voicemail message.

When we got home there was also a missed call on the landline from my brother at 6.20pm.

This way through the winery.

I phoned the number on my mobile and left a message to say I was returning their call.  It was the care agency's out of hours service.  I failed to connect but moments later I received a text.  "We have spoken to your brother and all is sorted."

This had all the hallmarks of a problem or emergency to do with Dad's teatime visit from the carer.  The one hour time difference meant this was all happening at 5pm UK time.  Alarm bells started ringing.

I spoke to my brother.

It seems that when the carer doing the teatime visit attempted to gain entry to the building using the security phone that calls Dad's flat, there was no answer.  Because he didn’t answer she couldn’t get in.

There are only a small number of reasons why Dad would not respond to a call on the security phone.  He could be out, which is very unlikely, or he could be in the bathroom, which is possible, or he could be unable to get to the phone because he is ill, unconscious or dead.  Or he could have gone to bed and been fast asleep.

There are other ways that a carer can gain access if the resident does not respond to the security phone.  To get into the building they can use the "call manager" button on the external keypad so that the onsite team who are there 24/7 can let them in.  Or they can use the security code for the keypad, which all the care agencies have.

Instead, the carer on Saturday teatime opted for flagging down a passing resident to let her in but then when she finally got upstairs to Dad's flat there was also no answer when she rang the door bell.  She phoned the agency for help and spoke to the person handling the out of hours service.

There is a key safe by the front door for the flat so that if Dad doesn't answer or let them in they can get in.  I gave the code for it to the agency when his care package was first arranged.

So the care agency have all of this information yet the carer on the day didn't have it.  A second text from the person on duty confirmed that she didn't have the codes in her paperwork either and therefore couldn't pass it on to the carer.  So she phoned me then my brother instead. She was "sorry for the inconvenience".

If you look out of your window, you will see a puff of smoke in the distance.  It will be the steam coming out of my ears.

All of this shows that, no matter how hard you try, systems that depend on other people doing their jobs properly will fail.

We might be in the middle of France, but there is no escape from the aggravation and worry that comes with looking after the needs of a very old person.  Even when you think things are going well, other people will inevitably let you down.

Luckily, on this occasion, my brother had not yet left our house, where he is living several days a week, to go home which is over an hour's drive away.  He popped round to the flat to find the carer had already left Dad's front door where she could get no reply and was on her way to her next client.  

Dad was fast asleep in bed.  It was 5.20pm, he'd had no tea and was blissfully snoring through all the drama.

This morning, I have spoken to the care agency and let them know that I am more than disappointed with the service.  They had all the information on file to allow the carer to get into Dad's flat and check he was ok, but the carer didn’t.  He could have been in need of an ambulance or dead.  FFS the carer didn't even have the gumption (or training) to pull one of the dozens of emergency cords that are all over the place either.  That would have alerted the 24/7 onsite team and they could have let her into the flat.

I feel duty bound to look for another care agency.  They might turn out to be no better but I don't see why I should reward this bunch of incompetents with my continued custom.  There have been too many mistakes and this is the one that could have been crucial.