I have already forecast that we are heading for a financial meltdown in the residential care market – see “Residential Care Dilemma” dated 12 October 2010 and “Houses Built on Sand” dated 16 January 2011 (both can be found by clicking on the TOPIC ‘Residential Care’)
I have never been keen on residential care as a model for looking after older people in later life. Like everyone else, I would not move into a residential home if I had an alternative.
Almost 30 years ago, it was the next step up from sheltered housing. Not a step you willingly took because the image was one of old ladies sitting around the edge of a lounge all day, with the TV on to comfort the staff into thinking that the residents had something to do. Beyond the image was the smell 😦 😦 – never talked about – stale urine told you all you needed to know about the attractiveness of getting old.
There were other things you gave up too – your mobility first . There were few electric wheelchairs and no scooters – they were prohibitely expensive and in most places there were steps and narrow corridors which rendered them useless. So sitting in a chair all day and rarely going outside becomes the norm. It’s an existance but not a life 😦
Nor did you have the privacy of your own toilet and shower – you shared with about 10 new-found friends. The communal bathroom was down the corridor, or maybe you needed the plastic commode in your room. Little dignity left after this everyday experience 😦
Even more intrusive was the fact that many people had to share a bedroom with a stranger. A right often justified by owners because “people like company” 😦 A lot has changed for the better in the last 30 years – though not everywhere.
I am still uncomfortable with the residential care model because it builds on dependency rather than promoting independence. There is a place for companionship and interaction, particularly amongst the frailest and mentally-impaired residents, who benefit from the stimulation of people around them. But that does not mean that these most vulnerable of residents should have to suffer the indignities of residential care.
It is these issues that make it so important that we re-think the future role of residential care.
Sadly all the current discussion is focussed on the imperative of financial viability. Qualityhas taken a back seat. The two issues are inextricably linked. Neither can be or will be resolved without the other. It is a classic catch 22 situation. Without more money you will not improve quality but without better quality you will not get more money !
SO WHO WILL TAKE THE FIRST STEP ?
WE NEED TO TURN GRUMBLES INTO SMILES.