As 2012 draws to a close I am saddened by what I see around me regarding the care of older people and wonder where the humanity in caring has gone and why things so essential to the essence of humanity, as dignity and compassion cannot be managed in one of the richest societies in the world.
I frequently come across examples of neglect and institutional ageism in my work, such as an elderly person being discharged from hospital to a care home in only a hospital gown with bare feet, another with such a nasty bed sore they were unable to sit down. A nursing home resident who asked for the toilet and was told there was no need as he was wearing a pad, another who had her discharge from hospital delayed for a week so she could be rehydrated via a drip because staff hadn’t realised she had not been drinking enough. I could go on.
And so looking forward to a new year I find myself reflecting on the changes I would like to see in the way we care and support older people in 2013.
- I wish national and local Government and the NHS would take responsibility for their gross failure to prioritise and resource basic standards of care for older people. The Government needs to stop sitting on the fence and make a decision about long term funding of elderly care. Putting the burden of rising costs of long term care on the taxation or National Insurance system must be considered as the costs of care should surely be shared across society as a whole to provide the dignity we seek.
- I wish commissioners would realise that older people, especially those with dementia, need longer to help them with daily living tasks and to make decisions. More staff are needed in hospital wards for older people, care homes and to support older people in their own homes and yes, it will cost more.
- However, I believe dignity is only partly about money. It is also about heart and recruitment of staff at all levels working with older people needs to test attitudes and training needs to focus on basic standards, such as making sure older people are eating and drinking enough. We need to rely on health professionals and social care staff to be consistently kind.
- I wish regulators would rate the care services they review with more precision than merely ‘meets or does not meet minimum care standards’ so informed choices can be made.
- I wish management in local government would be honest about the reality of the funding shortage and stop pretending they deliver a person centred service. They have to put money before individual needs so stop the rhetoric that pretends otherwise.
- I wish the bad care providers would learn about person centred care from the good ones or be driven out of the market.
- I wish as a society we could prioritise the value we give to our carers, especially the thousands of unqualified staff who are paid little more than the minimum wage for skilled and demanding work. We pay more for people looking after our money than we do for people looking after our most vulnerable citizens.
- I wish you my reader would consider the likelihood of yourself or family needing long term care, as 2 out of 3 of us surely will. Think about what kind of things would be important to you if you need care. Discuss it with those closest to you and encourage your elderly relatives to do the same. Decisions often have to be made during a time of crisis and it will be so much easier if loved ones know what the person would want.
- Finally I wish we could all adopt zero tolerance towards poor care practice of older people. It is time to act , so complain, use social media to name and shame (honestly) change care providers if necessary, write to your MP, do whatever you have to do to stamp out unacceptable care standards.
Finally, I wish you a peaceful, healthy and purposeful New Year and compassionate, dignified care for your elderly loved ones and clients.