Live isolated in own home – this is what people say they want

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.


2 thoughts on “Live isolated in own home – this is what people say they want

  1. I was a social worker for older people until I retired in 2009.Everyone I saw,female and male who needed support were,without exception, determined to remain at home if they possibly could.

    ‘M’ seems to have been let down by all the services who were involved in her care but supported accommodation was once an excellent option when dedicated wardens lived on site.Wardens would have a thorough knowledge of each of their residents and in the main provided warm,caring support,activities and outings for those interested and involvement in the community.I saw a complete change when live in wardens were replaced by a ‘pop in’ call morning and evening and phone call only during the weekend
    .Likewise in residential care,continuing budget cuts with the effect of reducing staff numbers,lead to reductions in training and time to talk and get to know residents.
    I was recently told about a residential home,with a staff team of care staff worried about losing their jobs who were instructed to get their residents up and dressed and downstairs by 7.00 am ,as the day care team were insufficient in numbers to manage all the morning care tasks .
    Thankfully this care home is being investigated for failing to employ a manager with a Nursing qualification,so with luck this inhumane practice will be highlighted. Hopefully.
    My own feeling is that I would prefer not to live so closely with a group of people I would be unlikely to have much in common with and in a society where cost cutting is paramount the possibility of the sort of care offered to ‘the rich’,is simply not going to happen for most of us.

    In these circumstances,I would ,like most people, prefer to remain at home with the sort of care package that used to be offered by social services home care teams,wonderful ,fully trained caring people for the most part and who were allowed to spend a little time with the people they worked with,no comparison with the ‘five minute tasks’ provided by private home care agencies now.
    Now 69 and having lived by myself for many years,I have moved to a very small modern house with downstairs bathroom facilities ,I wanted to avoid the situation I saw so frequently when I was working, of people who had lived in their homes for many years and simply could not face sorting their things and downsizing,when they couldn’t cope with their homes any longer.
    I have given a lot of thought to the options available if my health seriously deteriorated but my choice,like many others would be to remain at home ,as long as I possibly can.

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