Have we become a ‘neglectful society’? Trevor Brocklebank, CEO Home Instead Senior Care

2nd January 2013

Norman Lamb, the Minister of State for Care and Support, has claimed in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that our nation’s older people are being let down by their friends and neighbours who should help them to live independently at home.

The article appeared in the New Year’s Day edition of the newspaper under the headline ‘Neglectful Britons blamed for forcing elderly into care homes’.  Whilst I agree with a lot of what Mr Lamb has said, I don’t think that we should beat ourselves up as a nation. The issues of dealing with an ageing society are by no means isolated to this country – they are worldwide and maybe it’s the Telegraph’s headline writers I should be taking this up with.

The article did give me pause for thought as I considered the work we do across the country and how this might change in the year ahead.

Home Instead is committed to changing the face of ageing by supporting people to live independently in their own homes.

We are the only company specialising in the non-medical care of the elderly, providing a range of services including personal care and companionship.

Home Instead currently operates from around 950 offices, located in 16 countries across the globe, demonstrating that we are not the only ‘neglectful society’ if that’s what the headline writers wish to call us. It’s one of the things that’s always struck me about Home Instead and the services we offer that, whatever the country – be it America, Italy, Finland, Japan or the UK – the demand for our unique blend of care is there.

And that level of demand is at an all time high owing to the shift we have seen in demographics and we should bear in mind that the unprecedented growth in our elderly population is a relatively new phenomenon.  It goes without saying that it’s a change we should be celebrating but we, as a nation, along with the citizens of other countries across the world are going to have to make some dramatic changes to the way we live as communities in order to cope.

The reality of life in the 21st century is that families are fragmented and far more spread out so are not necessarily living close enough to lend regular support. With longer life expectancy younger family members now have far greater numbers of elderly relatives to cope with (perhaps two sets of ageing grandparents rather than just one) and we have to accept that families simply can’t deal with it all.

What was interesting about Mr Lamb’s comments is that he touches on some of the ways we can help to improve the lives of our elderly citizens and ensure that pensioners don’t get ‘pushed into care homes’ when, with the right help and support, they could remain in their own homes for longer. We just need to work out where that help and support is going to come from and what it’s going to look like.

The minister says that the current system pushes some people into residential care unnecessarily and we see this on a regular basis. We have long argued that the current system is broken and does not always encourage people to remain in their own homes which just seems crazy. It’s where the majority of older people want to be and the cost to the country is far less.

Local authorities should be challenged about the way in which they commission care and the ‘one size fits all’ system which leads to task based care, driven by block contracts and short-term cost savings. Health commissioners and the wider healthcare community need to have a better understanding about the range of care now available and recognise that companionship care as well as personal care has an important role to play.

Mr Lamb says in his interview, “Give them support, some companionship, and help them maintain activity in mind and body and everyone benefits.”  I couldn’t agree more.He is calling for councils to lead the way in encouraging people to help their neighbours stay out of care by giving guidance about how they can maintain their own resilience, using friends, neighbours and their community and in that way build resilience and reduce the burden on the state. The minister called this the ‘decent society’.

In the interview Mr Lamb talks about older people being let down by friends and neighbours who should help them to live independently at home and I think he’s right when he says that the care system will only cope with the pressures of an ageing population if individuals contributed to a ‘partnership between state and society’.

I would add to this and say we need to be looking at a partnership between state funded, private and third sector providers but I also believe thatindividuals and their families need to take on more responsibility for the funding of their care and in many cases be prepared to make a contribution.

During 2013 Home Instead will continue to focus on improving the lives of older people and giving them, and their families, choice. In doing this we will help to support Norman Lamb’s vision for a ‘decent society’ and we will also continue to work out, along with the rest of the world, how to deal with the reality of our new demographic profile.

To read the article from The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9773652/Neglectful-Britons-blamed-for-forcing-elderly-into-care-homes.html