Part 1 can be read here.
Like it or not, the generation that got us where we are now, the generation that, as the hit tune said ‘built this city on rock and roll’, the generation said by the journalists in the Sunday lifestyle supplements along with marketing men ‘’that just refuses to grow old’’. The generation that describes their parents as ‘aged P’s’.
There are a lot of them living in the ‘Wold’ now, some of them doing a sterling job of looking after their relatives, others not. Take a look around the next time you are in a retail destination of choice at the age of the people pushing wheelchairs and you will see they are often ‘boomers’ with their parents or elderly relatives or, and here is another social time-bomb waiting in the wings to explode as it surely will, ‘boomers’ with 40-year-old, sometimes severely handicapped children, – as one 70-something told me – a complete stranger – one day at a railway station. “Forty years we’ve dealt with this without any help from social services or anybody else. We’ve had more than enough, we just can’t cope anymore, try caring 24/7 for 40 years and see how you get on, they’ve even closed the day centre which at least gave us some relief.”
But let’s not dwell on the downside, this scenario won’t affect most. They won’t even give it a thought as they plan their next holiday to warmer climes, or that cruise to far flung places, but my goodness are they going to be in for a shock when something does happen and they realise the hard way that provision for the middle-income earner is either non-existent, expensive or so poor as to be unusable. I’m not talking about doctor’s appointments or emergency NHS care here, I’m talking about social care, the day to day living arrangements.
Another ‘boomer’ couple told me that they had made the decision years ago that, if push came to shove, they wouldn’t be able to cope with ‘aged P’s’ at home, it would have to be a care home for Mum and/or Dad; a good one of course that would meet their needs. Then reality bit. Dad, no longer able to cope on his own, needed long-term care as it had become rather too stressful having to arrange domestic help for Dad – and that is without what is termed ‘personal care’ (personal hygiene and soiled linen to you) and do the shopping, pay the bills and so on, and answer the telephone calls for help in the middle of the night when all the ‘brilliant’ caring professional have long since gone home.
Fees in the ‘care homes’ were around £850 a week and as Dad had some savings, above what the social services team term ‘the threshold’, he would be a ‘self-funder’. All well and good until you realise that the less fortunate among us are funded (nice word that) by social services, who contract various care homes to take residents, which sounds a good deal for care homes until you find that social services pay a great deal less for accommodation, and guess what? Self-funders fees are raised to make up the difference. Another attack on people who have worked, paid their way and paid taxes all their working lives, only to find that yet again, they are expected to fork out more for the privilege of staying in the same accommodation as the less fortunate or feckless.
All very inclusive and egalitarian I’m sure we would all agree. And there are care homes and care homes, like everything else you get what you pay for. Care homes in some areas cost well over £1000 a week, nursing homes, particularly those with dementia facilities, substantially more and as we are told the era of cheap labour is at an end, look out for even more expensive accommodation.
There are, of course, other alternatives. The active can purchase quality accommodation in a secure retirement village, often with all sorts of amenities and complete with care assistance and a concierge in operation, but these don’t come cheap and neither is the service charge which pays for the amenities. (To be honest it would seem to me to be a little on the depressing side to live with a community of people all more or less the same age.)
Many active people live alone, either by choice or late in life divorce (more common than many would imagine), or the death of a partner sometimes 20-plus years ago. Easier to cope with in your 50s but many would be hard pressed to do so as a 70-something.
If you have the financial resources it’s easy to have technological help which ranges from cctv so that families can keep a watchful eye from any distance and there are emergency systems that will call for assistance if anything goes wrong, for example if somebody takes a fall. But then who accompanies the patient to hospital or visits? Difficult when extended family members are either too busy, live far away or in another country. A lot of this explains why you see elderly singletons having a meal in a cafe, at the theatre or just in the park, or having, what seems to the impatient, a long chat with the girl on the till in the supermarket. It also explains why more and more these days we see appeals for people to attend the funeral of an ex-serviceman or woman who have no living relatives.
Moving on three decades from the experiences I described earlier, and not wearing a uniform this time and having had the experience of looking after a close relative in her own home for nearly as long, I find myself interviewing residents and relatives at a large, and it has to be said, a very good care home. Many of the residents were funded by social services and had exercised their prerogative of choice for this particular home. Did they like it? Yes, there was entertainment, nice rooms and social activities laid on. Was it far from their own home? Usually less than six miles, most had relatives living locally. Did they visit? Well not as often as we would like, but they are so busy you see. I didn’t see actually but perhaps that’s just me. The best answer I got took me back all those years to the community hospital and the dementia patient. Talking to the son and daughter of one resident, I asked: “Why did you choose this home?” Well social services suggested it, and it meant WE didn’t have to pay any top up fees as mom had made over her house to us years ago when dad died and just paid US a rent maintenance. And WE are very happy with how things have worked out so far. Do you visit often? Well it’s a bit difficult really, because WE are both very busy, but WE come to see her about once a month. Do you live far away then? NO not really about ten minutes in the car, but WE know she is in good hands, so WE don’t have to worry!
This is not a new problem, it’s been going on for years, and it’s going to get worse, a lot worse, unless either the state builds something as unsustainable as the NHS is fast becoming, or designs sustainable (ie. funded by the tax payer) social and community services that are flexible enough to keep the active elderly in their own home as long as possible, or the WE among us start to take responsibility for our OWN, and on what I’ve seen and witnessed for all the virtue signalling by politicians and celebrities, I just can’t see the “ME, ME. Somebody should do something” generation taking up the slack. It’s like OMG, I’m totally into that but the government must pay for it coz I’M just so busy and like, well old people, well they frighten you don’t they, init. Or moral responsibility, what’s that, some rock and some roll.