There are now almost daily reports in the press about the failures of our social care system for older people. It is no longer a disaster waiting to happen, it is a catastrophe unfolding before our eyes:-
- Report after report on the inadequacies of long-term care in the NHS which borders on willful neglect.
- The financial collapse of the Southern Cross Residential Care Company, which is probably only the start of a bigger implosion of highly leveraged (bankrupt) private care organisations.
- Inadequately resourced Social Services having to restrict their support to only the most desperate of cases ——and then only after a deliberately long and drawn out assessment process.
- The almost complete removal of attention from care in the community. Leaving vulnerable older people in their own homes with a virtually unregulated domiciliary care service.
I could go on ——-and join the Christmas concern about loneliness and isolation; — or the winter-approaching brest-beating anguished cries about the cold weather and high energy costs; —–or the deliberate erosion of pensions by inflation; —- or the collapse in value of savings with zero interest growth.
But what is the point —- nobody is listening. Society doesn’t care — at least until your own relatives bring the problem closer to home —- and then it is too late.
This is not a winge at the beginning of a New Year. It goes way beyond that – it’s O U T R A G E at the way we treat the older generation. Nor is it a new phenomenon – it has been the emerging and now prevailing attitude of society for a good many years, as we have increasingly focussed on ourselves. The changing demographics of an ever older population are something we would rather not think about, so we bury our collective heads in the sand.
Our political leaders are a reflection of our own short-sighted indulgence and know they won’t be voted back in by making us face up to our underfunded futures. So they express concern but do nothing – witness the Southern Cross debacle (for earlier posts, click on “Southern Cross” in the TAG CLOUD). They feign serious intent by commissioning Andrew Dilnot to report on care funding and then ignore the recommendations completely. The Dilnot Report was a constructive attempt to chart a politically acceptable way forward. It failed to gain support because it’s £1.7 billion price tag allowed the Government to claim it was too expensive to implement in the current economic crisis. If anything, Dilnot should have been bolder and made all but the poorest pay for their own care, which might have enabled the politicians to accept the recommendations and blame Dilnot for the unpalatable outcome.
What is missing is a total lack of political leadership and a complete failure to tell the simple and plain truth. Our increased longevity, which is a blessing for the majority of older people, means that we have not saved enough for later life, particularly if we become frail in our final years. It’s nobody’s fault, it is just reality and not facing up to it leaves several generations of elderly people in limbo. While elderly services collapse all around them.
Most elderly people cling to their house like a life raft in a stormy sea rather than downsizing or releasing equity to provide for a better life. Desperately hanging onto a life raft is not the best way to live out your retirement but the alternatives are not that good either. A place in Spain until you become frail, —- a bedroom in a Southern Cross home, —- dubious advice from sharp-suite financial advisors, —- exploitation by door knocking salesmen with everything from hearing aids to new front drives.
When you need medical care, your GP, with go-away pills, is your first option. Thereafter you’re in a queue for assessment – Social Service denial – accident – emergency admission -and if you’re lucky a bed – where they will give you MRSA – and no food or water !
Still, the Politicians with their extra houses, will no doubt avoid the worst of the deluge and manage to retire to calmer seas.