Elderly care is all over the media – again! There’s a BBC series under way ‘Protecting our Parents.’ It’s all about shocking stuff – again!
I want to put it into perspective. The media must stop skewing the issue by focusing only on the sensationalist, negative side of the elderly care story. Well done, you are contributing to the collapse of social care. It is becoming almost impossible to recruit into care, which is exacerbating the already squeezed resources that are constrained from a financial perspective.
While awareness of issues is good, programmes like this and recent exposes unfortunately can harm more than they help. They can focus unfairly on carers in homes who are overstretched, and on the homecare businesses so thinly spread that they accept 15-minute calls even when they know it’s wrong (we refuse these however). All of them have fewer and fewer carers to call on, and little or no ability to cover no-shows, illnesses and absences – regardless, all face a scaling challenge in terms of demand. It’s not simply about zero hours contracts. It’s not just about substandard carers abusing elderly. It’s about a system that has too few resources, who are overstretched, overtired and underappreciated, too little money and no political will to change.
What will it take to find the way forward? Media to stop making it worse? Stop using stupid analogies and comparing the cost of care to the cost of hotel rooms? Social and healthcare need to stop fighting against each, and shuffling elderly people around like unwanted packages. There also some need for us as citizens to change our expectation. Everyone needs to wake up to the realities: every citizen of this country, especially those who are approaching the end of their earning years, must either adjust expectations of the quality of life and care that they might receive, or recognise that they will have to contribute more. The idea that somehow, sometime, the government will find a way to fund elderly care more is a pipe dream.
Local Authorities must stop demanding greater and greater care resource for less and less funding: they have already hit the barrier below which care can no longer be delivered. The politicians must stop avoiding the responsibility and appoint a senior minister for the elderly. They need to stop looking at this solely as an election issue and take a long-term view. By failing to do this they are helping perpetuate the fairy tale of what our future will really look like if we don’t take action now.
Longer life is an inevitability. UK Office for National Statistics tells us that the number of centenarians in the UK has risen by a staggering 73 percent over the last decade and that the number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to double in the next 20 years and nearly treble in the next 30. Unless we do something now, it will be a longer life, but one of lower quality, less choice, less dignity and poorer health.