It’s been a game of two halves this week, and the football’s long since over. I’ve been weeping and raging for various reasons but mostly about two very different zoom calls with two octogenarians. One, a widow in excellent health, with new hair weaves and colour, keen to take on the world once again; in stark contrast to the second call, another 80 year old, Joy, but who instead is tearing her hair out, desperately trying to sort out a new care home for her darling husband.
A woman at the end of her tether
After months of stress and anxiety trying to find the best care for her increasingly frail spouse, what tipped her over the edge this week was the care home manager aggressively demanding to know when he would be moving out.
If only it was that simple. Not only is Joy navigating the local authority social care and funding processes – just getting someone on the phone seems a herculean task; but also the nightmare of trying to fill in the forms for NHS Continuing Care for her husband who has multiple health needs, but not necessarily the ones that the NHS might fund. And then finding a care home that can look after him and his complex needs. Oh, and she’s worried about money. And her husband has stopped eating because he doesn’t feel comfortable in the care home dining room.
Raging against the system
It makes me want to weep. Actually it makes me want to rage and weep. This lovely woman, so caring and compassionate, should not be fighting with a system that doesn’t work (despite the very best efforts of so many of course). She should be looking forward to life after lockdown and spending time with her husband. Instead this.
I can only hope that elderly care gets a Marcus Rashford moment. He’s had a very busy few months, not least dealing with outrageous abuse himself of course – but bloody hell, we need someone to do for elderly care what he has done for free school meals. Maybe we’ll have a Sajid Javid moment, but it can’t come soon enough, certainly for Joy seeking affordable and dignified care right now.
Waving whilst drowning
So while we continue to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, waving whilst actually drowning, all we can do is try and help eachother. It doesn’t feel nearly enough right now. Here’s what we’ve learnt:
Four useful things to do...
Later life financial planning– with care home fees ranging from £700 – £1400 per week depending on the individual needs – this is not for the faint hearted. These are difficult conversations to have within families, but so, so important to have as early as possible – before you really need to have them.
Local Authority – Care assessment and financial assessment: even if you know your parents are going to have to fund their own care (with over £23,500 in assets this is most likely the case) – if you feel they need more care, then they do need a LA assessment – if for no other reasons than they are then in the system, and worse, situations do change.
NHS Continuing Care – as we have said before, the holy grail of funding elderly care; predicated on having an “underlying health issue”. It’s not enough to have a diagnosis of dementia for example; it is also a postcode lottery in that different areas will have different priorities for funding (within a national framework); organisations such as Beacon can help with the process.
Finding help – fortunately there are many organisations that can provide help in a wide range of situations, many local charities and others.
For now we’ll do the best we can for Joy and her beloved husband. But it’s not a level playing field in anyone’s book.
Maybe Marcus Rashford has a bit of spare time now the footie is over….. we can only hope.
Annabel James is founder of Age Space. Her raging and weeping are entirely her own.