Britain’s population is ageing fast, with experts predicting a huge increase in the number of 100 year olds by the next century. Latest Census data shows the number of people aged 65 and over now stands at 16.4%, the highest seen in any census. This demographic shift brings with it significant challenges. Pressure is increased on Britain’s already creaking infrastructure, meaning the issues faced by older people must be addressed head on. High amongst the worries faced by this group is the question of later life living and the possibility of needing care. How we improve and develop the options available and better meet the ambitions and the needs of older people is a topic that must be discussed at length and with candour and open mindedness.
Fundamentally in its current format the care home system is in a state of calamitous and rapid decline. With a recent survey showing 71% of people would like the option of staying in their own home as they grow old and only 3% stating they would make the choice to go into residential care; it’s time for a revolution in older living, as the existing model is both unwanted and deeply flawed.
Both the NHS and local authorities are struggling to cope with the demands of our ageing population and traditional packages of care are coming under increasing strain. They are unable to offer the person-centred, at home support that older people say they want. Surveys have shown the ability of being able to stay in their own home, or return there after a hospital stay, improves their sense of wellbeing and their health outcomes. As the Care Act comes into force next year, now is the right time to move away from the institutional care model, with the exception of specialist illnesses.
It has been well publicised recently that the length of care visits are shrinking from 30 to 15 minutes. A Freedom of Information survey found 74% of councils are offering 15 minute visits to older people at home, up from 69% in same survey last year. This means more people are being offered a “one size fits all” service rather than a service supporting the aspirations, needs and priorities of each person. It’s unrealistic to think 15 minutes is enough time to help people who are older or who have a disability to do everyday things. It’s not fair on those who need support or on the care workers themselves. It is essential that we ensure the right care is put in place.
The unspoken question seems to be, how can we go about making living at home a reality in our older age? Older people both deserve and are demanding better care and we should be taking steps to ensure this is always possible. At the moment the system is driven by the need to cut costs which means the needs and priorities of those in, who actually need the support, are pushed to the back of the queue. The entire care system needs to be overhauled to allow people to be able to choose the best option of care which will work best for them.
Points of reference:
 Establishing the extra in Extra Care, Perspectives from three Extra Care Housing Providers http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/index.php/publications/publication_details/establishing_the_extra_in_extra_care_perspectives_from_three_extra_care_hou