Guest blog: Caron Sprake, Devon Life Care Columnist – People and policy

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When I was invited to contribute an article on “The Future of Ageing” for the International Longevity Centre I was delighted but challenged with my first question, ” Can I be honest?” Their response was affirmative commenting that it should be about policy not products.

Having seen that many previous contributors were academics I was delighted to be writing as a layperson. I don’t deal with policy, I deal with elderly people. I help family members manage the negative effects of policy that are presented to me on a daily basis via social media as a social care agony aunt.

Poor care, lack of funds causing elderly people to care home “hop”. If you can no longer pay, you can no longer stay with local authority have strict policies regarding top up funding.

Can you believe that in 21st century Britain some elderly people are potentially starving to death in care homes despite 1:1 funding? (CQC have been informed and I have evidence to substantiate these claims). The majority of the public have no idea how badly the social care system is failing and with most decisions made at a “point of crisis” remain so until a loved one is the victim of poor care or abuse. This applies to the domiciliary care sector as much as residential and I have observed these changes for the worst over a 20-year period.

We may be living longer but not necessarily always living better. Many care homes lack stimulating activities. Staff shortages and high workloads see residents imprisoned in chairs, plonked in front of the TV! Person centred care! Where?

In the famous words of Robbie Williams, ” I hope I die before I get old!”

Is it all doom and gloom? The media, myself included, never seem to showcase the excellent care that is widely available. Flagship establishments that are truly inspired do exist. Wonderful carers with time to care, a home environment designed to promote independence, food fit for a King and activities to enjoy, life can still be good. The media focus on the doom because the public need to know what can and does go wrong. The difference between the best and worst care is huge. I know, I have seen it. Grass roots not policy.

Good care costs, it has to. Old age comes at a cost. “Do not regret growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.” However  if you have little or no money you lose your right to choice. Your care home will be allocated according to funds.

Social care needs to change. Carers both paid and unpaid (you can’t call £62.10 per week Carers allowance “paid”) are exhausted, fed up, isolated, forgotten and disillusioned. Carers should be respected and appreciated for the challenging role they hold for their minimum wage. Good training and tighter recruitment standards are needed, caring is a vocation not merely a job to reduce unemployment levels.

Caring for the elderly, in my opinion, is one of the most important roles in society. Giving something back to those who have contributed so much, who are frail and vulnerable and need care. A lifetime of memories from people who were “someone” and still are. Whilst dementia may steal these memories, person focused care and good care are a basic right not an afforded luxury.

As the future unfolds and with a predicted one million people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 we have a social care crisis. Care costs money and we need a significant increase in funding. Successive governments have played ” pass the parcel” with this obvious responsibility; the ticking time bomb no one wants to hold when the music stops.

Do I have the answers? No, I don’t. I leave that to the policy makers but would not merely urge but insist they listen to people like me, who see daily, the effect their decisions have on the elderly and their carers. Grass roots should form policy.

Unless substantial funds are raised through increased taxation or National Insurance contributions or Insurance companies offer affordable care policies, the problem will not go away.

I genuinely fear getting old in Britain.

Caron Sprake. 48 and 2 days.

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