'Care - The Problem No-one Can Fix' ... Except Us
In the October edition of 'The Bridge', deep within the Three Churches section, there lurked a short piece entitled 'Better Lives for Older People'. It passed all but unnoticed- which is unfortunate The intervening months have seen the 'Crisis in Older People's Care' become an almost media constant, as the 4th estate now openly acknowledges the yawning gap between supply and demand in Social Care for older people. (viz 'Elderly Care Crisis Looms...' The Telegraph 11 October; 'A crisis of politics as well as finance' Guardian Editorial 13th October; and most TV channels most nights since then). That things cannot continue as they are is selfevident.
The solution, however, is less so. From my involvement in the early stages in of our local Health and Social Care Partnership , I can see why.
Despite a recent change in tone, increasing taxation did not loom large in many party manifestos at the last general election. And although it's only an educated guess, I would estimate that our Council need to find at least an extra £2,500,000 just to cope with demand for Homecare in Perth and Kinross this year. Hands up all those happy with another £100 on their Council Tax bill this year? You see, we're not bad at identifying the problem. It's the solution we find less palatable.
And the good news? Well that may depend on us. Personal Care is for Councils to fund and arrange. But there's evidence to suggest that people (of all ages) who feel supported by their community enjoy better health and make less call on public services. Older people manage longer in their own homes and local public services can then make their Care go further. There are already many people involved locally in supporting older people , but if we're to sustain our key health and care services, then more of us need to get involved - giving a little of our spare time .
And the nature of that support ? Pretty much as varied as the people who require it. Some may need help with picking up their shopping or a prescription; others, who don't have family near by, might need a little company; while some might just need help with a simple task (light bulb; fuse; jamjar lid) . In practice, it was a request to help set up someone's internet which came from that piece in September's "Bridge" . It took young James (I know my limits) all of 10 minutes to start it, but opened up the possibility of Skype/FaceTime with family abroad for the people in question.
We can all make a difference. - both to the lives of our older neighbours and to the size of the overall 'Care cake.' Of course, none of us have to do it, but here's a prediction. By the end of this Parliament, the current 'Care Crisis' will have passed crisis point. Our Hospitals, already creaking, will have cracked. Most people awaiting Homecare will not get it until after a hospital admission. And most of us awaiting routine surgery will have our hospital admission dates postponed because of the numbers of older people awaiting care to enable them to return home safely. It's happening already.
Now the excellent work done by local people will not safeguard the care of our older citizens alone. (At some point, we may all need to bite the bullet on taxation.) But it can help to spread the local care cake further. And as experience here and elsewhere has shown, not everyone needs assistance all the time. Sometimes they just need to know they can get help if their path is blocked by snow; if they can't get out to the shops; or if they can't get the radio/internet tuned in. So while people who're willing to help someone regularly are always needed, folk who have very busy lives can also make a difference.
So, here's an idea. Why not start a list ? A list of people who are willing to help out when they can; the stuff they think they can do; and an indication if they'd be willing to help in an emergency [e.g.severe winter weather]. At the same time we could start another list of things that older people say they need help with. And we could put them both together at a one-off meeting and take it from there. There again, we could just decide to do nothing - and wait. Till it's our turn - as someone waiting to be treated in hospital; waiting for care for a family member; or needing it ourselves.
But if you'd like to hear more or want to get involved in any way, however small it might seem, why not come along to the Birnam Institute at 7.30pm on the 16th of February when you can hear from one or two people who have done something similar elsewhere ?
Me ? I'll put my name down for easy household jobs; winter help; and maybe simple repairs. But not sorting the internet. Definitely not that.
Hope to see you on the 16th
The Old(ish) Guy
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