I have been thinking about this question recently partly due to my own mother getting older and also with all the news on the election. Years ago it was down to us to care for our parents which was right at that time but society has changed. More families stayed together back then and helped each other as they aged. Divorce was long, expensive and difficult so people got married and stayed married. Women were moulded into being the perfect house wife and were even taught how keep their husbands happy at school by ensuring his dinner was ready and the house and kids were immaculate. As women became grandparents they would help out with the grandkids and when they needed care, the whole family mucked in to help. But then there was little option I guess. Families and community were stronger back then and looking after the elderly was always down to the families.
Families in the UK have changed quite substantially during the twentieth century. The rise in the number of single-person households increased from 18 to 29% of all households between 1971 and 2002 and is expected that by the year 2020 there will be more single people than married people. People are choosing to be single with less people getting married and more than ever getting divorces. Families are now often spread apart living in separate towns and even countries. We are working longer hours and the elderly are now put in care homes or left to struggle at home.
Whether we like it or not Britain is full of fractured families and we have a greater rate of family breakdown today than ever before. This means many elderly are left to their own devices with very little help from their family if they have any at all. With our aging population and growing population due to net immigration our public services are going to be continually put under pressure in the next decade or so. So whose problem is it, us or the government?
I personally think it’s down to the NSH or care system to take up the responsibility because in today’s society it is nearly impossible for us personally to care for our parents. If our parents have paid national insurance contributions their whole life then there should be a better system in place for when they are in their later years. Sadly many elderly who have paid into the system their whole life are struggling in their later years and this is wrong. I believe there is enough wealth in this country to ensure our most venerable are looked after. If governments spent more time chasing the big companies that avoid tax and stop energy companies and other big companies making so much profit there would be plenty to go around. Sadly the rich are getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. There needs to be better management in our care industry and more money needs to be put into hospices and caring facilities’.
If families are able to help their elderly relatives then they should with the support from the care service. When my father was dying I found it hard trying to help him. Being a single parent and living over 200 miles from my father I did my best trying to get him some care help when it was needed. Being a very independent and proud man he didn’t want to end up in a nursing home and like most elderly wanted to stay at home. Those around him and myself did the best we could by making his home as safe as possible. I managed to get some carers to come to my dad and wash and help him a few times a week which worked ok. There was room for improvement though; my father found that some of the carers were great but others not so much. They were all immigrates and it was rare he saw the same person twice. He did find one Polish carer was exceptional and would give him a wet shave and just do that bit more which my father appreciated. As his condition got worse and after a couple of falls I decided to take him to hospital as we just weren’t coping, this is something I have always regretted. The NHS is not a place for the elderly. What is really needed is a lot more hospices or centres with a high standard of care. Good carers need to be rewarded. My father visited a hospice a couple times a week and really loved it there. He would have moved in straight away if he was given the chance. He should have been given the chance but right up until the night before he died I was told it was full. It must have been the hospital that knew he had hours left to live so rang the hospice and only then did they make room as it were. This is a shame as the last week of my father’s life was pretty grim. He was left to sit in his own urine as the nurses just left him. (he has a slight bladder issue and wore pads). Other men were sat around with no dignity at all. It was horrendous but I didn’t know where else to take him. We need twice as many hospices and quality carers. Homes and carers need to be constantly vetted, trained harder and paid more.
As my mother reaches an age when care will be needed I am put in the same position which is a feeling of helpless and not sure what to do. Even if I could afford to give up work or if the government paid me a good wage to care full time for her I still don’t think I could do it. I think it takes a special type of person to care for the elderly and I don’t think I have the right mentality or strength. I can certainly help by doing her shopping and cooking the odd meal, offering some company. I have already ensured her home is as safe as possible and she has a walk in shower fitted. I will try to be there for her as much as possible but I know it will be hard especially if she becomes too frail to walk or gets an elderly related disease which needs specialists care. You only have to visit a care home or hospice and see the hoists and lifting equipment they use. And even with this modern day equipment it takes more than one person to use. So a caring facility will be needed whether we or I like it or not.
All we can do is hope the future governments put more emphasis on the care industry and help the elderly and us as much as possible. Care agencies and homes need to be more regulated and good carers rewarded. Families need to be better supported so they can take some of the strain away from the NHS. As much as we love and try to care for the wellbeing of our elderly parents, there is only so much we can do before needed external help.