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.