Thursday, 13 November 2008

Elderly carers arise, you have nothing to lose but your chains

Old couples, who may have been together for many years, frequently want to remain together. Not surprising, but from this enduring attachment arises a despicable form of exploitation. The services required to keep an elderly couple in their own home are seldom remotely adequate. Specialist nursing services, for example, for Parkinson's patients, are almost as rare as hen's teeth. It is often the case that one partner is designated as the carer for the other. Perhaps it is a matter of who becomes seriously ill first. They can be placed in an impossible situation, caring for their partner when they themselves are old and sick. Who cares ?

Not, apparently the medical profession, who know about enormous numbers of these cases, but seemingly prefer to hide behind the remit of social service departments, who ostensibly are responsible for providing domestic support for carers. This is a medical matter as well as a social one. Social services don't have anything like the resources necessary to provide the needed services.

Make sure, when you are discharged from hospital, that there is a fit young person waiting at home to care for you.

It is a national disgrace. Couples expressing a human desire to remain together may be punished severely for their fidelity. Carer Watch, who campaigns for the rights of carers, is currently campaigning for elderly carers to be treated as human beings.

Too expensive ? Like constant wars, Trident, multi-million pound aircraft carriers, big bank bailouts, billionaire tax evasion, etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not sure at what point one becomes elderly, I may have recently met the criteria but whether I am elderly or not I am physically disabled and your post very much reflects my experience.

My husband has recently had a stroke, not a catastrophic stroke but a disabling one nevertheless, and I received a telephone call midweek to inform me that that the plans for him to move to the rehab ward have been changed, he is coming home and the Intermediate Care Team will provide rehab.

I have had recent experience of this team and it was not a good experience, I will be expected to carry out all nursing tasks except getting up and washing and maybe putting to bed, therapies will be shown to us and I will be expected to help my husband carry them out. I am about to take over the nursing, feeding and therapy that a substantial number of NHS staff have been providing and would continue to provide were he still in hospital receiving rehab. And there is a time limit on the ICT involvement, six weeks.

I have of course insisted that he can only come home if sufficient support is available to ensure that he is properly provided for as well as requesting involvement in the pre-discharge assessment by the ICT. Experience tells me that I have no influence and that we are about to be plunged into another unsustainable situation to the detriment of both of us but most particularly to the detriment of my husband whose future ability to function is very much dependent on getting intensive, appropriate rehab at this stage.

Until we learn to value the contribution older people have made and continue to make to this country, wherever resources are scarce, in our case rehab beds, older people will find themselves the recipients of third class services. ICTs mainly provide services to the elderly to keep them out of hospital or to facilitate early discharge, ours is underfunded, overworked and has insufficient staff to meet the needs previously provided by inpatient services.

Our partners, Dugsie, have us to advocate for them, whether we have influence is another matter, but many elderly patients have no-one to fight for them and I have absolutely no doubt that they are not listened to. My husband will return home to an inadequate carer but at least he will have one, many older people are being denied hospital beds or discharged early and have no-one to fill the gaps that the NHS and social services once filled.

I also believe society needs to ask itself whether we want the engagement in illegal and amoral wars, the development of weapons of mass destruction and fiscal systems which serve only to increase wealth gap between the rich and the poor to take precedence over the welfare of those who have contributed to the wealth of this country and now need something in return for their contribution.