Dignity in care: we need the tools to deliver solutions

January 13, 2010 9:53 am

Author:

Share this Article

Social CareBy Diana Smith / @mulberrybush

We go through phases when the question of how we are going to care for an ageing population comes briefly to the top of the media’s attention for a couple days and then sinks without trace again.

This is a pattern I have been watching for about ten years now, and at times I find it a little frustrating. For the last couple of days I’ve been unable to escape it. It started with my reading some of the transcripts from the Midstaffs foundation trust Inquiry. I spent an afternoon this week at Stafford University, meeting with a symposium of health and care experts who are considering the implications of the equality bill for our Health and Care services. Then I watched Dispatches with Fiona Phillips talking about her father’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Then I listened to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, which dealt with how changing our attitudes to the elderly is central to the delivery of better care. Later, I listened to You and Yours, with dignity champion Sir Michael Parkinson. They didn’t use the audioboo I sent them so I’ve included it here.

Listen!

Tomorrow I will be seeing the chief executive at Stafford Hospital and I expect the quality of care and how we can continue to improve this to be a key issue in our discussion.

In discussions about the challenges that our health and care systems are presenting I find myself using a stock phrase “old age is not what it used to beâ€. If we look at what has been happening over the last couple of decades, the general improvements in health mean that people live far longer, and the highly dependent period of increasingly old and frail people at the end of life extends not just for a matter of just weeks or months, but in many cases years. Because I went through eight years of this with my mother’s dementia, I have a pretty clear idea of the impact this can have on families.

Like many people who have been through a difficult experience it matters to me to try and ensure that not too many other people have to go through the same problems.

There was a common theme running through all these programmes: that when we see problems with care we are very seldom looking at deliberate culpable cruelty or neglect. We are virtually always looking at a combination of overstretched and undervalued staff, who are working in surroundings that may not have been well designed for the purpose, and who are exhibiting the same kind of casual ageism that is present in virtually all of us. Sometimes this amounts to inappropriate behaviour, more often it is just a failure to relate to the person who is at the receiving end of the care as a person.

Ageing

The simple graphic above compares the shape of the population structure in 1950, 2000, and 2050. I think it shows pretty clearly why Health and Care systems designed in the 1940s are creaking under the strain now, and shows even more clearly why they will simply not cope by 2050.

Over the last couple of years we have perhaps been reaching the point where the problems of caring for the elderly have become a little more visible to a public who might have preferred not to see.

For me personally I find the continued media focus on the individual stories very frustrating. I know the problems. I also think that a lot of very important work has been done which moves us a lot closer to the possibility of real solutions. The green paper on care with the possibility of putting care funding on a realistic basis, and creating a National Care Service are to my mind some of the most important legislative proposals around. This is something that was built around lengthy and in depth consultation with stakeholder organisations. I have personally been taking part in these consultation exercises for five years now. The Green Paper was seen as a hugely positive step by the stakeholder groups, and I believe it would be welcomed by many ordinary people who are concerned about the possibility of losing their life savings on care, if they know of its existence at all. It is a proposal which can potentially win very strong cross party support, but it is something that only the Labour Party is proposing.

For me, the astonishing thing about the Dispatches programme and You and Yours is that they never mentioned the Green paper or the National Care Service.

The Dignity in Care campaign and the Equality Bill are both important in helping to create the climate for better care. The creation of a National Care Service is vitally important for providing a framework to deliver it.

If we want people to understand not merely the problems associated with elderly people in the health and care services, but also the solutions we are going to need, then I think we are going to have to work a lot harder to get this message across.



tweetmeme_source = 'tweetmeme';

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Reforming bus services is an important aspect to revitalising many local economies

    Reforming bus services is an important aspect to revitalising many local economies

    Rail services and infrastructure dominate the debate around transport, but with two thirds of all public transport journeys made by bus we are right to talk more about the importance of local bus services. I serve an area with no rail or light rail link, where many people are entirely dependent on buses. I hear from older residents who are left cut off and isolated, unable to easily access GP or hospital appointments. Shift workers who simply cannot get to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment A rent increase for our Armed Forces tells you all you need to know about David Cameron

    A rent increase for our Armed Forces tells you all you need to know about David Cameron

    This week the Government announced that it would be making changes to accommodation for our service personnel and their families. At first glance you might think that is good news because quite frankly, housing for our service personnel and their families is, at the moment, barely adequate. But what the MoD were actually announcing, hidden under details about a new contract for maintenance, was that our armed forces will now have to pay more in rent to live in accommodation that […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Who are the potential candidates for next leader of the Scottish Labour Party?

    Who are the potential candidates for next leader of the Scottish Labour Party?

    Johann Lamont has resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, prompting a new leadership race. As we noted this morning, candidates do not necessarily have to be MSPs, as long as they stand in the Holyrood elections in 2016 – meaning that the next leader could currently be a Westminster MP. So, who are the potential candidates? Here (in alphabetical order) are some of the names that are being mentioned: Douglas Alexander MP: Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and elections […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Why Lamont left – and what happens next?

    Why Lamont left – and what happens next?

    Johann Lamont’s resignation was a surprise, if only in terms of timing. Politicians – especially party leaders – rarely resign in newspaper interviews released over the weekend. Yet it seems this decision had been coming for a while. This was not something that transpired over a matter of days, but weeks, months or even years (depending on who you speak to). Lamont has made the right decision to step down. She was facing increasing fire both internally and externally, and didn’t […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour “can indeed win”: Blair denies doom-mongering

    Labour “can indeed win”: Blair denies doom-mongering

    The Scottish Labour Party is not the only headache for Ed Miliband this morning. The Telegraph’s front page doesn’t make for the best reading either, running with the news that Tony Blair predicts a Tory victory next year: However, the story is not all it seems. The only quote The Telegraph supplies is from an anonymous source who claims that the former Labour PM made the prediction in a private meeting with them: “The Conservatives will be the next government […]

    Read more →