The Socialist 17 October 2012
Build a 24-hour General Strike
Invest in caring - we're worth it!
Pete McNally, Worcester
Care arrangements for elderly relatives are now a major issue for families. Here is my experience.
My Dad lived to 84 and by then had memory loss and dementia. I could get him to talk about the distant past but he could not remember what he did yesterday.
When he had a fall and went into hospital he deteriorated fast. The beds on either side were occupied by a woman on an oxygen machine which made a noise every minute, and a man who was so confused he tried to leave his bed at every opportunity and had to be persuaded back.
Eventually the doctors were convinced to discharge him on the promise one of us would stay with him at his flat for a week and care plans would be made.
My sister stayed with him and the council intermediate care team provided help each day. They were excellent and his neighbours looked out for him.
The council only provide care for six weeks and then the job is put out to tender. A private firm took over and a nightmare ensued.
They phoned my sister on each of the first four days they were due to say they could not gain access.
My sister had to leave work to sort it out. After much confusion we found the private firm had been going to the wrong address.
Later my Dad went back into hospital and it was clear he could not live alone again.
He needed to go into a care home but which one? We were advised to consult the Care Quality Commission website.
We went to visit some. None of the ones we visited were purpose-built. There were steps, dark corners and poorly-lit corridors.
All the staff seemed to do their best but in one home there were 20 or so occupants sitting in a lounge looking at a large TV screen. At another I asked to use the loo and found it dirty. None were suitable.
Before this we had been put in touch, I think by a nurse at the hospital, with someone who could help us.
We needed all the help we could get. But we eventually realised the job of the person "helping" us was to fill the beds as quickly as possible to keep the money coming in.
The decision was taken out of our hands. One of my brothers arrived at the hospital to visit my Dad but he had been sent to a care home without us being told. Apparently this is not unusual and the hospital can do this to free up the bed.
When we visited we were pleasantly surprised. It was what we had looked for. Purpose-built with wide corridors, large bedrooms with en-suite showers, adjustable beds and staff who seemed to enjoy their work. We could visit at any time.
Well cared for
This was not enough for some of the residents. On my first visit I went in and two elderly women approached me.
They asked if I could show them the way out. They said they had been to a meeting and now needed to go home.
With my mind on my Dad I did not catch on. Then a member of staff came and assisted them back to the lounge. They were the escape committee.
My Dad stayed at this care home for nine weeks before he died. The fact we were confident he was safe, well-fed, had his medication taken care of and we could visit unannounced was a great help to us.
Half of the care homes visited by the Care Quality Commission failed in their duties to the mentally ill. That forced me to write this article.
There must be a massive investment in the state provision of care, and a thorough overhaul of the way relatives are involved.
This will cost a lot of money but then there is a lot of money about, look at the amount the rich have stashed in tax havens - up to £20 trillion! And we are worth it.
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