Monday, June 13, 2011

Care in the Community?

Having my mother in a residential care home means that I've followed the saga of Southern Cross with more than purely academic interest.  Fortunately her home is not managed by that company, but the whole sorry saga has highlighted the problems we have.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Southern Cross story (and I happen to believe that there's been a large degree of immorality in the decision making at times) we have a situation where thousands of people are living in some kind of sheltered environment because of age or disability.  The homes range from supported housing through to full scale nursing care and they are all labour intensive.  By its nature that's what care is - it's demanding, tiring and rewarding.  Care homes need staff who can cope with all manner of problems and frustrations, who care but when necessary are dispassionate, and who have the necessary skills to support their residents to live as happily as possible.  That's a pretty tall order.  If it were an easy, unskilled job then probably a lot more of us would take it on and our relatives wouldn't need to go into care homes!
So given all that, we do need a thorough look at how care is provided for when independent living is impossible.  Before the election Liberal Democrats talked of having a serious look at the possible ways before deciding on anything.  That discussion is ongoing, though of course much of what appears in the press is about how people pay without any of the surrounding thinking.  Meanwhile we have homes threatened with closure, people threatened with having to move house not through any choice they make but because the financial settlement says they must, and relatives worrying about when and how to tell their loved ones that there might be a problem.
Let's hope that the nation as a whole, everybody - not just MPs - can come to a consensus on how to pay for care in the future and how to manage the buildings in which the care is given so that we never have this sickening situation again.  That would be a sign that the nation has come of age and begun to accept the responsibilities that being part of society imposes on each and every one of us.

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