Call it a bit of a mid life crisis, but as a 40 something, rapidly hurtling towards 50, I find myself often pre occupied with thoughts about what will happen to me when I’m in my twighlight years, especially in relation to health and care. I live in hope that one sunday night, after a fabulous weekend spent with my children and grandchildren, my wife and I will curl up in bed in spoons, and peacefully pass away in our sleep. I know, totally unrealistic. But one can dream…
The Panorama program on Monday the 23rd of April featured the plight of elderly care, specifically the case of a care home resident with dimentia – I didn’t watch it; I didn’t really want to. I’m fully aware of the decline in standards around elderly care. And please, don’t give me any of that “it’s no worse than it was 40 years ago, its just reported more” crap.
But after picking up that that the program was on, it prompted me to finally get this blog post out there, which I’ve been meaning to write for some time. You see, I believe that despite politicians/journalists/do gooders best (or worst) efforts, there will be no substantial change in care of the elderly especially, or in general terms across the health service. Even with our growing elderly population, the current issues are not being addressed by the existing solutions, and neither are they likely to be. There is only one thing that will make a difference. You and me. Or to put it another way, our emerging social connectivity.
You see the appalling treatment that is going on right now, inside some dodgy old folks home or even right on the wards of our most admired hospitals goes largely unreported simply because the “customer” – the elderly or infirm in this case – don’t have a voice. More pertinently, they don’t have their own voice. Before the internet, companies could treat customers really badly and get away with it. Not any more. There is a growing social stage on which companies, their products and services are being held to account. The same is happening for employees, but thats another blog.
However, there remains a huge proportion of largely elderly folk who are almost completely unconnected – to the internet, let alone socially. And whilst we complain about the dodgy wireless connectivity in our cafes and bars, its non existent in hospitals and care homes. But I wonder how long for?
At some point, in a few years, there is a good chance that someone like me will be in elderly care. Assuming that, unlike the lady in the documentary, I’m reasonably in control of my faculties and haven’t been stripped of all personal responsibility, I will be connected. And I won’t be alone. How long before we see tweets, mentions, wall posts or whatever it will be then, that look like this:
“I’ve been sitting in my own excrement for 4 hours. #degrading #help”
“OMG i think I’ve just been sexually assaulted by the duty nurse”
“apparently I’m not allowed out of the building despite my doctor saying walks are essential for my recovery”
This seems completely alien to me right now. But I don’t think, in the long term, they will be. And I reckon that when it starts to happen, the elderly care sector particularly could collapse – or at least the companies within it that are currently operating on the borderline or beyond in terms of ethical and moral activity will do.
Personally, I want to see the elderly, and the patient sector at large have a voice. Until they do, programmes like Panorama will come and go, and nothing will change.
Yes that Panorama program was to put it mildly shocking… and they have come an gone over the last 10 years with little difference made!
Told my wife, that rather than go through this to pick up the Colt and…..
What is so shocking is that majority of elderly care in private companies domain (with capitalism as driver) and a regulatory set up that really is rather
worthless (as also shown in the beforesaid Panorama programme)
When will politicians start becoming efficient guardians of the people they serve?!!!!!
Hi Jacob – a good point. I think we should get rid of the politicians first 😉
Im not sure that the whole privatisation drive has been a good thing overall. Over the years a lot of services have gone this way. I appreciate that there was a lot of inefficiency in there, but I wonder did we try hard enough to improve that before deciding the ONLY way to improve services and efficiency was to sell it off. Thanks for posting.
Pass me the Colt when you’re done with it 😉
There are two issues at play here, for me at least. First and foremost the treatment of old people (how old is old eh? I am 52 and feel very young indeed) should not be delegated to external agencies. Family first and foremost should do this job. Here in blighty we appear to despise old people rather than revere them. Thus, a number of people who work in care for the old, despise the very people they are meant to care for. Not all of course, but enough.
Secondly, the UK has a very poor record for providing technology to old people and I feel it will be a generation that passes before this is rectified. Gareth is right when he says that we are the generation of technologically empowered who will not stand for being disconnected. The problem is, is there newer technology out there from which we will be disbarred as our present generation of old people have?
Either way, my overwhelming emotion at seeing how our old people often live and are treated (not just in care) is sadness, really heart ripping sadness.
We can all start to make a difference today by being less tetchy with old people (our own and others).
Finally, I called them old because they are, not to be derogatory. I refuse to fall into the silly PC way. Remember, before we all became PC, our old people were looked after in the bosom of their families (more often than not). Who’d buy a house with a granny annexe now eh?
Hi Peter. Great point about families looking after their own. I read an article around the subject just before I wrote the post and this was one of the authors concerns – where are the children? It’s also a good point about technology – Im not sure if we will continue to be disadvantaged but at least if we are all online and connected, voices will be heard.
I’ve made a mental note to be more tolerant of old folks – im getting closer to that category every day! Thanks for commenting.
Having worked in a care home to fund my studies, I have the highest regard for most of the people who work in that field. I do however feel as Gareth and Peter have stated that we should be caring for the elderly in a more appropriate manner. I recently lost my father and my mother is still in shock at her loss after 60 years of marriage. We are doing the best we can to support her and I have to be thankful that at the moment she is in good health with all her faculties. We are however, as a family, having to think about ‘what comes next…’. She does not want to go into a ‘retirement community’ or care home even if this were necessary at a later stage, and despite my father having left her financially stable, is concerned about all of her savings and home going to fund this. Both my parents worked hard till retirement and yet my mother will get no support from ‘the system’ when or if she needs it. As of last year, I am my mother’s voice, and no doubt at sometime in the future, will become her carer.
Our generation need to interact and share ideas of how best to manage this – it will be our legacy to our own children and we have to do the best we can. We are largely a priviledged generation, I don’t think we will be excluded from being connected in the future as Peter suggests, but to ensure our connectivity we need to keep current and more importantly not think this is someone else’s issue.
We have a political voice and as baby boomers and gen x-ers we need to start voting with our conscience….. for more flexible working, a more supportive stance to all carers (of the old and young), but more importantly because the fabric of our society depends on it.
I am up for that house with a granny annexe………….
Hi Sharon! Long time no speak! Hope you are well! Sorry to hear about your father – a real blow. One of the issues of getting old is that we seem to have made the process of seeing out our twilight years so hard, so difficult to navigate. Im stressed about it already and I’ve yet to hit 50! You are right to suggest a more “collective” approach. We have the ability to make it work, and the imperative.
One of the other ideas that popped into my head which didn’t make it into the post was that in the future, I can see increasing number of elderly folk living together. Not in classic retirement complexes as they do now, but in more small communities. Pooling their resources, buying large houses or small holdings and creating safe, supportive environments for each other.
Thanks for commenting – coffee soon?!