Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Elderly care crisis

British newspapers have recently been reporting that an estimated 20,000 people a year are forced to sell their homes to pay fees for nursing and residential care, which can reach hundreds of thousands of pounds. (My mother may be in this position very soon.) Spending cuts due to the recession have driven some care home companies out of business, while inspectors have warned that elderly people are being neglected and even abused by poorly trained helpers in their own homes.

Earlier this year, a government commission chaired by Andrew Dilnot recommended reforms to the system – a new private insurance scheme would be expected to cover the first £35,000 of care, with the State covering the rest. But the Treasury is understandably reluctant to agree the £1.7 billion a year this would take, and 2025 is being talked about at the earliest start date for the reform. That's a long way off, and the crisis will be much worse by then.

Clearly more needs to be done urgently. But it is important to note that throwing money at the problem is not a complete solution, even if it were possible (say, by diverting bankers' bonuses into a national elderly care fund). In a way the more worrying aspect of the crisis is the inhumanity with which the elderly are being treated when care is available.

I have an old friend now in her 90s, now in a care home. She recently wrote to me: "in so many care homes I fear the treatment is all theory with very little true understanding or commonsense." She is in a new unit surrounded by dementia patients, and describes
their situation as "utterly scandalous". She says "I am on the brink of feeling that I shall have to make the mismanagement of this home known to some public institution that can intervene - but how and to whom and where I could go from here, it is not easy to see and I am so physically exhausted the prospect of moving is almost unthinkable. But I know, as you do, that GOD is with us and knows what we need and why; even if I murmur to Him sometimes: Dear Lord, I know you know best but couldn't you just give one a bit of peace - which of course is utter nonsense because he is offering us His peace all the time."

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is perfectly right when he says “A failing of today’s society is to set the old over and against the young, in a state of mutual incomprehension. In fact, the old need the young and the young, the old. An integration of the generations is critical to a mutually supportive society.... A truly caring and Christian society is therefore one that sees older people, not as a growing and irrelevant burden, but as a rich treasure store of energy, experience and wisdom to be placed at the service of the young and of its future."

And of course it is not simply that the elderly can help us with their wisdom, but that for their own sake, as human beings, they deserve the respect and dignity our present system so often denies them. 


  1. The elders are certainly the most respected members of our society. They need utmost elder care so that they can live the rest of their life with peace and in a healthy manner.

    Care homes in Kent

  2. HI Stratford Caldecott,
    Hats off to you dear, you have written very feel.
    Your have shared your own experience and pain through this post. no doubt in the fact that senior members of our society are facing the worst time of their life, becasue day by day nuclear family concept is increasing which leads elderly people stay alone either at their own homes or some nursing home, which is ridiculous.
    I really want a revolutionary thing to be happened with these elderly people, so that they can live a life with independence and respect.

    Reference: Elderly Care