Dignity be damned again !

Care homes are again in the headlines.     The Daily Mail has once again raised its campaigning banner “Dignity for the Elderly”.  It’s been a very long and wholly ineffective effort.   It started way back in 2010, when I first began this blog and it has periodically popped back into the headlines ever since.  ( You can follow my earlier posts by clicking on “Dignity be Damned”  in the Tag Cloud ).

I have never been convinced about the campaign, it has been half-hearted, spasmodic and wrongly directed.    You have to wonder if the Daily Mail really cares or are just trying to sell a few more newspapers.

In the early years the campaign was full of outrage and celebrities.   Michael Parkinson lead the cause and was even crowned ‘Dignity Champion’.   But he gave up quite quickly and moved on to selling funeral plans !   The Government set up a Commission which wrote a lot and recommended a lot after several years of study and then quietly faded away.

The latest revival, eight years on, is all about the high cost of residential  care, with a sprinkling of outcry about the poor quality.  But, it’s  still not dawned that it is not about “Dignity” it is about abuse and shameful exploitation of vulnerable older people.

Residential Care has always been a “go-away” solution.   Successive Governments over the last forty years have wished the problem of frail older people would go away.    The ever-growing numbers of our older population have made the issue a financial nightmare, exacerbated by the high levels of dementia.    But, the problem still won’t go away!

It’s not just the Governments that are to blame, they are ultimately in the hands of the electorate.   Since every solution requires more money the politicians know they won’t get re-elected by suggesting expensive answers.   Particularly ones that cost the children of the old people their inheritance, although I am not sure they are right about this.  I’m sure the majority of children would wish their mother or father, who has to go a care environment, a happy life in older age and would certainly accept that they may have to pay more to cover the cost of this.

So the problem continues.   The bottom line is that society as a whole wishes the problem of old people would “go away”.  The long awaited Green Paper on social care, has been postponed for more than a year, but we are promised it will be published before the end of this year.  Don’t hold your breath and don’t expect too much!



Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY, Residential Care | Tagged | 1 Comment

Depressed Birds

Just a week ago I was writing about too many older people being prescribed anti-depressants to combat loneliness.  (See “Quick Fix Depression” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

GP’s don’t change their habits easily, so I don’t expect anything to happen as a result of the Health Minister’s exhortations to cut back on prescriptions.   Although tranquilizing old people is one way to stop them grumbling all the time.

There is one thing that might force a change of approach.    A study of starlings at York University found that exposure to Prozac reduced their sex drive.      A unique and essential piece of research !

Apparently, starlings are attracted to sewage plants to feed because of all the insects.   We all know older people pee a lot and combined with excessive use of anti-depressants, this is causing a build up of  Prozac in the sewage system.    This then attracts lots of insects who no doubt get high on the Prozac.    Then the unsuspecting starling population gobbles up the insects, little knowing that this is going to ruin their sex life.   Hence less starlings.

This could lead to an environmental disaster.    Birds first then there will be no bees.  And where would we be without the birds and the bees ?

Who on earth would have thought of doing this excellent piece of research on sewage plants and starlings’ sex lives???   Perhaps this will finally persuade the Government to do something about the over-prescribing of pills to old people 😀

Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 2 Comments

Quick Fix Depression


The number is rising every year.   Have they become the new ‘go-away pill’ of the year.  In the quick-fix, cure-all, out-of-sight, out-of-mind GP service and the bed-blocked, older-people-are-a-constant-nuisance NHS.

A double page spread in The Times, 21 July would seem to suggest that  the epidemic of loneliness amongst the increasing population of older people is being treated this way.     A map in the article charts the level of prescriptions for depression in different areas of the country.     Best not live in the North of England, nor Lincolnshire or East Anglia.      And don’t try escaping to Torbay or the Isle of White.    These are all areas with the highest rates of prescribing anti-depressants and not coincidently the highest rates of older people in the population.

The investigation finds that 7.3 million people are being prescribed anti-depressants.   This is a number that has doubled in the last decade and surprise, surprise, the elderly are the greatest ‘beneficiaries’.

Feel fed up – take a pill.    Not been out lately – take another.  Too many repeats on the tele – a pill might take the boredom away.   Lost a friend – a pill will help you forget.   Forget and a pill could help with that too.  Anti-depressants are rapidly becoming the new ‘go-away pill’ for older people.

GP’s are busy people and they can’t be expected to cure-all the ills of modern-day society, but anti-depressants are a quick out-of-the-door solution.  Pills are free to the elderly, but talking to them takes time.   Social clubs cost money, just like meals on wheels, day care, home visits and a little attention.   It used to be called compassion.

It’s easy to blame GP’s but the reality is, its society as a whole that marginalises older people.   That in turn creates the epidemic of loneliness.


Posted in Dementia, HEALTH | Tagged | 1 Comment

Dementia Repeats Itself

Sufferers of dementia are renowned for their forgetfulness and recognised by their tendency to repeat the same questions over and over.     I first came across this when I opened a nursing home called Newfield House in Coventry in 1987, which specialised in looking after people with dementia.

My very first blog in February 2010 was about dementia and I have regularly been writing about it ever since.  (You can see my earlier blogs by clicking on “Dementia” in the TOPICS LIST).   In fact I have written more posts about dementia than any other single topic.  Now it seems other writers in the media are following my example.

A recent conference in America was reported on in The Times.   It  repeated a story about “Overuse of drugs to treat dementia”.   It should be no surprise as the Department of Health raised the issue earlier this year.  (You can see my blog “Doctors in two minds” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

Looking back a few years and again the story surfaced in the findings of a report of research at Harvard University.   The study found that pensioners who regularly took pills for insomnia and anxiety were more likely to develop dementia.  (You can see my blog “Hooked on Pills” by clicking on Pills in the TAG CLOUD).

In Newfield House and in the five further specialist nursing homes we built, the first thing we did was reduce the levels of drugs the residents were prescribed.     It made the residents more difficult to manage and regularly repeated questions were part of the daily life of the home. The key difference between then and now, were the staff.   Thirty percent of the care staff were qualified Registered Mental Nurses, as was the Nursing Home Manager.   They were supported by NVQ trained care staff and between them and the relatives of the residents, they established care plans which were personalised to each resident.   The staff were hugely committed and had the patience of Job.

Sadly, with reduced staffing levels and severely constrained costs, the chemical cosh is now the silently tolerated treatment for dementia.

It seems as though it’s not only people with dementia who constantly repeat themselves, but also reporters, researchers and successive Governments.

Posted in Dementia | Tagged | 3 Comments

TV No Longer Free ? Part Two

This follows on from my last post about the BBC reviewing the free TV licenses currently given to all over 75’s.

The Beeb is launching a consultation, which means they would like to scrap free licences, but they don’t know if they can get away with it. So here are a few options they might like to consider :-

  • Boldly bite the bullet and scrap it altogether —- people will be upset for a while, the Government will say it is shameful, but the stars obviously do need more money to pay for that change of clothes each day and their lavish lifestyles.
  • Ask old people to voluntarily pay the license fee —- this has already been suggested as an idea, but I can’t see too many older people falling for it.
  • Means test the entitlement ——- another bright idea, but it will cost a lot to administer unless they get more of those detector vans with the rotating aerials.  Maybe they could disguise them as ice-cream vans.
  • Some bright spark has already thought of raising the age of eligibility.  Currently it’s 75, why not make it 105.  There won’t be too many people claiming free licences then!

Here are some alternative suggestions for cutting the budget :-

  • Sack all the staff with ‘assistant’ in their job title.
  • Shut down the 24-hour news channel and just have 1 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock news.
  • What’s BBC3 ? Does anybody watch it ?  Would they notice if you closed it down?
  • You might as well say the same for BBC4.
  • There has been lots of concern about older presenters getting fired, so adopt a new policy of employing more over 75’s in future.
  • Come to that why not give all the jobs to over 75’s ?  I will bet they could be camera men and interviewers and editors and costume designers and everything else.   Then with their higher salaries I am sure they would not mind paying the TV license.

There’s just one problem, which the BBC may have overlooked in considering removing free TV licences.   Older people watch much more television than younger people.   In particular they watch the BBC much more than other viewers.  Younger viewers have already migrated to YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, if they watch TV at all.

Over 55’s account for 63% of all BBC 1 viewers, even though they only make up 31% of the UK population.   News at one has 82% of its viewers over 55.   Brassing all these older people off by charging for the licence fee could well result in the BBC having far less viewers and losing their place in the audience ratings.  In turn this could mean the Government decides to reconsider the massive grant it already gives to the BBC.

This ought to make the BBC think twice before removing the free TV licences for older people.  

Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY | 2 Comments

TV No Longer Free ?

A few years ago the Government quietly passed responsibility for “free TV licenses for over 75’s” over to the BBC.    It was announced in the Chancellor’s budget statement, but attracted little comment.  The Government used to foot the bill of over £750m annually for free TV licences for the elderly.  But the BBC now has to start “sharing the cost” and from 2020 take it over in full.   Having thought about this for a while, the BBC has woken up to this impending catastrophe.  Now it seems the chickens are coming home to roost.

The BBC is feeling the pinch.  Its stars are demanding more money.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds are just not enough for reading the news or hosting quiz shows.   Nor are they anywhere near the going rate for chatting about football or swanning about on Strictly on a Saturday night.

Then there are all the behind-the-camera staff toiling away as producers, assistant producers, editors, assistant editors, sub-editors and assistant sub-editors.  And don’t forget sound technicians, lighting technicians, stage managers, and writers and costume designers and set designers and prop purchasers and wardrobe mistresses, and transport managers and logistics aides and outside broadcasters and inside broadcasters.  They obviously need more money for the excellent work they do on our behalf.

The BBC are desparately seeking to pay for all these hard working people.   So now they are looking at the budget for the years ahead and that promised free TV license is in their sights.   Who knows what the next news headlines will be?

It looks like it is Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman, Holly Willoughby et al verses the over 75 year olds.


Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY | 2 Comments

Social Prescribing

We have got a new Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock and he is full of new ideas.   Well they are old ideas really.    SOCIAL PRESCRIBING, remember these two new buzzwords, they are about to revolutionise care of older people in the NHS.   That’s if you believe Matthew Hancock 🙂

Go to see your GP from now on and you won’t get a pill for all ills.   Instead you will be told to go to the cinema and watch the latest blockbuster movie ——- something like Fantastic Beasts 2 or Aqua Man or Oceans 8 —– just the sort of thing that would appeal to older people.    Or your GP might suggest you go for a walk, a very long walk, never mind your poorly feet.   Oh and don’t come back, to the surgery that is.    Or perhaps bingo is your thing, we all know old people like bingo and now your GP might even prescribe it for you.  Or if you can find one, go for a day out on a bus with your free bus pass, which you can now get with your free prescription.   It looks like cinemas, bingo halls and buses will be jammed full of older people before long, all clutching their free prescriptions.

Longer term, maybe just before the next election, Mr Hancock is working on another idea to reduce costs in the NHS and solve the country’s immigration problem, all in one new swoop.   “Happy holidays” on prescription.   Free flights to anywhere in Europe, then you can claim welfare benefits in the country you are staying in.  Oh and you will need a visa to get back into the UK.    There is a 58 page application form online at http://www.onewayholidays.gov.uk.

You can already tell that Matthew Hancock is brimming with great new ideas for older people.  He must have spent time in the Last Laugh Looney Party 🙂

Posted in HEALTH | Tagged | 4 Comments