One day we will all be old, so it’s vital we start to treat elderly care as a priority

Soicial care: The crisis in caring for our increasingly ageing and infirm population is one that non

Soicial care: The crisis in caring for our increasingly ageing and infirm population is one that none of us can ignore any longer, says Rachel Moore. - Credit: PA

With an ageing population and £5bn cut from the adult social care budget, the chaotic, uncompassionate and makeshift way the state cares for its elderly is the real crisis of our time. And it's just going to get worse, for real people in real need.

In the early hours of today, scared elderly people, in their 70s, 80s and even 90s, would have been taken by ambulance back to their cold dark and empty homes.

Discharged from hospital, ticked off as a bed-blocker success by the ward, they become someone else's problem.

As sun rises, they will wait alone, bewildered and frightened, hoping carers might come through their front door some time in daylight hours to help them out of bed, get dressed and do the basics.

The war veteran sitting in soiled clothes wondering who will turn up and when. The 85-year-old who used to run a busy factory put to bed at 5pm to fit in with carers' schedules, the 80-year-old former librarian sick with anxiety that her carers are now three hours late.


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They're lumped together as 'the elderly', a problem of our time, but they are all individuals with back-stories, who worked their way through life.

Some will become so terrified before sunrise they will call 999, be taken to hospital where the whole process starts again.

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Real people who had careers, paid taxes, contributed to their community and are going through the perfectly natural ageing process, but are viewed as one big 'issue'.

Social care – how society looks after them – feels like it's filed under nuisance, a societal irritant that just won't go away but needs to be kept hidden under the radar.

While bickering simmers about how to fund 'the problem' in the Westminster bubble, few of us give a thought about the real people social care is all about.

It will never be a vote winner. Old people whose bodies and minds are failing make us feel uncomfortable because no one want to become one.

There's nothing remotely sexy or appealing about care for the elderly when it comes to campaigns. Funding for cancer care, for children's hospitals, for A&E are crowd pullers.

Old people are a challenge that no one wants to meet.

It's about our own fear of facing the future, of losing our minds, faculties and independence, about the fear of ending up in care homes that smell of wee and boiled cabbage.

But that old person whose body is giving up, terrified, confused and lonely in the early hours, relying on carers for the dignity of life's basics could be you or me.

With an ageing population and £5bn cut from the adult social care budget, the chaotic, uncompassionate and makeshift way the state cares for its elderly is the real crisis of our time. And it's just going to get worse, for real people in real need.

The social care system is on a knife-edge of catastrophe. Demand is rapidly outweighing supply.

Lawyers spoke this week of a rise in clients so fearful of their savings and assets being sucked into keeping them alive into old age, depriving children of any inheritance, they were asking to be allowed to die.

Half a million people have created powers of attorney in the last two years enshrining their desire to refuse treatment should they become incapacitated.

How terrible. What child would rather see their parent die so they can get their hands on their money?

It's time my generation and younger changed the way we think and dropped the concept of inheritance as a right. It's not. Dignity in old age should be.

We need to accept that care doesn't come cheap.

Care homes and agencies are businesses, not philanthropic organisations. It's hard to make a profit, with hefty overheads and staff costs, bills are high.

My father's bill for his nursing home is more than £3,000 a month. His stroke nearly three years ago left him paralysed down his right side. He can only be lifted from bed by hoist, is doubly incontinent and has lost his speech.

He can do nothing for himself apart from feed himself with a spoon in his left hand and drink from a toddler beaker – his one independence he fiercely guards.

Yet his needs aren't deemed severe enough to merit funding under NHS Continuing Health Care. He does get funded nursing care allowance of a little over £111 a week, making the bill my mother pays every four weeks more than £2,660.

My father was a teacher. He didn't earn a lot. My mother didn't work enough to pay enough national insurance to earn a state pension in her own right. My father has a fairly decent teacher's pension.

When their savings hit £23,500, the council will fund up to a certain level of care but, like almost 50,000 elderly people in residential homes who qualify for means-tested council-funded care, we will need to pay top-up fees to bridge the shortfall to keep him in the place where he is happy.

Before his catastrophic stroke at 76, none of us had considered care costs.

The reality is shocking and terrifies my mother about her future every time she pays a bill.

But he has the care he needs and is maintaining his dignity in terrible circumstances, which is worth every penny.

Social care will never be made the priority it deserves to be until we all open our eyes to understand why it is so vital. It is about real lives and, possibly, ours in the future and the government needs to make its funding a priority.

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