The UK has a huge and ever increasing population of elderly people, a population that fought for this country and made it possible for our generation and future generations to live in a free democracy.
Elderly people can be grumpy, repetitive and hard work at times, but is this a reason to give up on them? Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you were losing your independence; whether it be due to deteriorating health or simply not being able to afford a decent standard of life on a poor state pension? Wouldn’t you be repetitive if you had a wealth of stories stored up from many years of life experience?
So after fighting for this country and laying down their lives, a lot of elderly people will now ask what for? My granddad’s daily complaint session usually consists of him announcing how his country has ‘gone to the dogs.’ But my argument couldn’t possibly cover all aspects of my granddads never-ending digs at what Blair and Brown have done to ‘his’ country…that would be an article longer than the controversial list of MP’s expenses… and that was an extremely long list.
Instead I want to discuss care homes. Care homes for the elderly perform an essential service for people who can no longer live independently. In England, over 18,000 care homes currently provide places for more than 453,000 clients. Six out of ten places are in residential homes, the remainder in nursing homes. Demand for places is increasing as more of us survive to a ripe old age. But getting stuck in a care home and having to give up your property in order to pay for it, is this really fair? Some residential care homes can cost up to £900 a week, so surely the standard of care should reflect this? The standard of care for old people has sparked numerous debates including cases of abuse and issues surrounding cleanliness. Are care homes in crisis? Everyone has to get old and there are obvious negative points surrounding old age, but surely the care we provide for the elderly should be of a high standard and not make them feel as if they are a burden on society.
When visiting a family friend, we drove down to the Grange Care Home in Folkestone, Kent. There were very few staff on, and none whose primary language was English in this residential home that is costing each OAP around £600 a week. Our family friend Nora is the grand old age of 94, is deaf, partially blind and can barely walk. When being spoken to, it was difficult enough for us to make our conversation clear into her hearing aid, but for the staff that were mainly young girls from the Philippines, their accent was even harder for poor Nora to understand. A monotonous life consisting of being lifted out of chairs and then into bed must be frustrating enough without the inconvenience of a language barrier. Older people and their relatives want residential homes to offer a ‘home for life’. However, as residents age, their health needs become more complex and care home staff will need enhanced personal skills and support from healthcare professionals to meet these needs. So why are we placing people such as these young Philippine girls into a position where they are undoubtedly being paid an extremely low wage to do such a demanding and gruelling job?
With the Conservatives introducing a voluntary insurance scheme so that people are no longer forced to sell their homes if they need residential care, yet trying to raise the retirement age to 66, their position on elderly people is somewhat confusing. Andrew Lansley, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, confirmed the Conservative’s policy is that end-of-life care should become a mainstream part of the NHS. In addition to the Government and their plans, as a society we should treat elderly people with the respect and courtesy they deserve after a lifetime of hard work. When was the last time you gave up your seat on the bus for an OAP? Care homes should offer a service satisfactory to their residents, but the Government need to ensure they are looking after the carers properly too, in order to ensure a higher standard of life for all parties involved.