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.


BBC Newsnight Ageing population

Below a contribution from Kata  (63). I did not see the programme and am appalled by the BBC coverage of important issues and Newsnight choice of commentators. For Wolff’s care4care scheme see blog “Social Care in the home” that I posted in November 2011. 

With the news, according to a recent UN report that older people are the fastest growing age group of all, BBC Newsnight last week featured an item on the issue of how to manage old age in the 21st Century.

The UN Report estimated that worldwide there will be in excess of 1 billion 60 year olds by 2022, and 2 billion by 2050.
Whereas in most developing countries, young people are brought up knowing they will be expected to care for older family members, these days in developed countries, this is largely considered to be the responsibility of the State.

A studio discussion followed with Paxman in the chair, featuring Prof Heinz Wolff – founder of Care4Care scheme – George Monbiot, Environmentalist/political activist, with Prof Calestous Juma of Harvard University contributing via video link from the USA.

Care4Care is the ‘brainchild’ of Prof Wolff which he claims offers a solution to the challenge of caring for the increasingly elderly UK population. The rationale is that people should volunteer to care for others, for say 4/5/6 hours per week, in exchange for care when they themselves are older and require care. Care hours will be ‘banked’ to be used in the future. Evidently, there is currently a pilot scheme underway on the Isle of Wight and Wolff hopes that by 2015, there will be one million people doing this.

In response to Paxman’s query re who will ensure that the person now caring will receive it in the future, Wolff conceded that the next generation must be as keen as the present one to provide care. But what if they don’t WANT to, asked Paxman. The Professor expounded further that they simply MUST want to,or they will ‘die in the streets and won’t get there bottoms wiped!’ (The only reference in the discussion to the nitty-gritty of providing personal care!) Paxman looked pretty incredulous at this point!

Over at Harvard University, Prof Juna referred to technological innovations, such as robotics, being employed in the care of older people. Evidently in Denmark and Japan robots are being used to provide home care. So much for the human touch!

Monbiot argued that a whole raft of measures will be necessary regarding the provision of care, and that robots alone won’t suffice. According to him, we must face the pain and start planning now for the coming demographic downturn. Migration would be a factor, i.e. bringing in young carers from developing countries that would not be going through these demographic changes just yet.

Prof Wolff was emphatic that having young carers from overseas caring for older people in the UK would not work. He gave the example of a young Polish student caring for an ‘old lady’ could not work as there would be ‘no empathy’ and therefore it would not be viable. Paxman, quite rightly, pointed out that surely this was already happening with lots of workers from overseas providing care in the care sector in this country!

Young people will be required to supply the funds/care/labour that older people will require. Older people will be a ‘demographic burden’ which some people will have to service.

The issue of resentment of older people was raised. Wouldn’t young people resent older people, despite it not being their fault that they were living longer? According to Monbiot, young people will be required to supply the funds/care/labour that older people will require. Older people will be perceived as a ‘demographic burden’ which some people will have to service. Monbiot stated that he fully expects to be hated and seen as having not only ‘screwed up the planet’ but become a huge economic burden, should he survived long enough to be an ‘old crock’ ( it did not seem to occur to him that this was a very ageist and insulting term!) The situation will be very politically challenging, he concluded.

Wolff disagreed, he believes that many people will make provision for their old age, while others will be ‘feckless’ and will have a rough time of it. It did not seem to occur to him that contrary to being ‘feckless’, many people are not in a financial position to make provision for old age, they are living from day-to-day.
Further evidence, in my opinion, that he lives in a middle-class bubble which eschews class differentials. One point he made which I concur with is that as a society we need to put as much effort into providing for people towards the end of life as we do for the upbringing of children.

social care in the home

I am so angry again. I attended  Question Time in Parliament organised by the Greater London Forum for Older People: Awareness Week Question Time on Social Care within the home – Who should provide your social care – your neighbours or care professionals? 

That was no Question Time. That was Time to show contempt for old  people.

The audience of over 100 was composed of old people and  over 2/3 were women. It was obvious that all are involved in community activities and volunteering. Most probably a lot of us are carers or/and cared for. Instead of giving us space to interrogate the MPs, armed with our own extensive pooled experience of   ‘care in the home’ issues, we were served a so-called debate.  The Minister of State for Care Services (Paul Burstow) gave us some flannel about the coalition’s plan for reforming social care services. He affirmed that social care has never been free or intended to be free and promised us a white paper for March.   He then disappeared to attend serious Parliamentary business.  The Labour MP (Jeremy Corbyn) appeared ten minutes before the end and talked generally about pensions and poverty and urged us to support the 30th November action.

We were left with  the debate between Prof Heinz Wolff and Dr. Helen Carr. It is the arrogance of the Professor which was so insulting. He talked to us as if we were a stupid crowd with no knowledge of the subject. He insisted that his scheme care4care of an army of volunteers motivated by the prospect of being looked after by neighbours in the future  would give their time to deliver social care in the present. It is the only way to solve the problem of care in the home he repeated.  His premise was that there is and will be a crisis in the funding of care in the home and that we cannot ask the government for money. He stressed time and again that his solution to this problem was the only one possible. He urged us to think scientifically and look at the figures which demonstrated this.   If  we did not agree with him it is because we live in cloud cuckoo land. The tone of his presentation gave the impression that he, a man, a scientist who is in a position of being able to pay care, knew what is best for us, the others. Just like the cabinet of millionaires is telling us that cuts in our social services are absolutely necessary

Dr. Carr did challenge him  point by point  and effectively in a very reasonable way. She did express what the majority of the audience knew and felt. But she was defending the case for the status quo,  not proposing  an alternative to the Professor’s bizarre scheme. A contribution from the floor did demonstrate in a small way that there are ways of providing  alternatives to the Professor’s proposal and poor state provisions. (See  OWCH )

That was no question time or debate. The knowledge and experience of the audience was not represented on the platform. The vision of what social care should look like and how to fund it was not presented. At a time when there are protests all over the world by the 99%  against social inequalities, the sense of outrage at the treatment of the old and vulnerable was not present at this meeting although some of the floor contributors did show their anger.