Is it coincidence or what happened to a friend and a relative of mine more common than the general population imagines?
The two women, very different in all ways, over 80 both of them thought of themselves as coping living on their own. O loved her comfortable flat. Very independent she belonged to a few social groups, had many friends and family and at no time considered changing the situation. M on the other hand lives in badly managed sheltered accommodation after many moves, has no friends and only an elderly relative as social contact.
O was found by a neighbour, unconscious. Nobody knew got to know how long she had been lying on her bed unable to contact anybody. After a few weeks in hospital, she died. M was also found nearly unconscious and bruised on the floor where she had been lying for two days and nights. The ambulance took over an hour to arrive and she was admitted to hospital. After 10 days as an inpatient she was declared medically fit and discharged with the promise of home care help as soon as she arrived home. She was still very confused, weak and unable to function. The relative was not informed of the situation, and not given any contact numbers. The carers did not arrive that day, evening, or the next day. It transpired that she was discharged before a care plan was put in place by the council.
I am writing this because I felt strongly that the general policy of keeping old people in their own home as long as possible ,’that is what they wish’, may in the long run be more destructive and costly that establishing good care homes. I have written about this in previous posts (search in this blog ‘Enrich your future, and Protecting our parents) . Our culture is an individualistic one. The isolation figures are worrying and lead to the above incidents. Yet excellent care homes cater for rich people. We need to think outside the box, read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, investigate OWCH. Ageing is a feminist issue and there is hope that the revival of feminist groups (london 70s sisters) will yield similar projects.