Tuesday, 27 December 2011


I am concerned about what goes on behind closed doors. Many old people live alone, I see cars parking outside some of the bungalows where I live, a uniformed person steps out to either assist with personal care, maybe get breakfast or help to bathe someone, then leave that person to sit alone all day in front of the dead eyed television. Later in the day some stranger returns to assist at bed time. Deep inside I worry about finding myself in the same position. At the moment I am reasonably healthy as is my husband but of course we are aging. Each morning I think that if I feel bad today what will I feel like in ten years time?
I am afraid that as the years go on, one of us will be alone and needing carers to come to our door. How can this be prevented, how can any of us save ourselves from this fate? Why doesn’t the government do something that will change the system of how to care for the aging population? It has been suggested that, if we can, we put away a chunk of money for future care which might mean that we do not have to lose our homes to pay for old age, it sounds like a good idea? We know that society is in a state of imbalance, not enough working individuals to pay for the ever increasing aging population. Britain just cannot afford to pay for care in the community. I ask why this sudden panic when successive governments have known this would happen for a very long time. In my Health Visitor training over thirty years ago I did a study looking into the future of the welfare state and it warned then of governments needing to be prepared.
It looks like successive governments have had the ostrich syndrome. We all know that ostriches have very small brains and bury their heads in the sand when they see trouble coming. Obviously they have ignored the fact the welfare system could not go on supporting the health of the nation as efficiently with people maintaining healthier lifestyles, improved medical care, better working conditions and so on all helping to prolong life. We are left with the problem of an increasingly ageing society so how do we cope with something that should be wonderful?
What happened to family values where one took care of ones own? What happened to neighbourly love? Have we become such a selfish society that we see each other as a burden? Do we just shut our eyes to what is going on around us? Maybe we need to take off our blinkers and change the way we view our elderly. What happened to the extended family in Britain? Some say it is to do with families become more affluent and children deciding they want to move away from their parents. Many children leave home to go to university, finding work and maybe never returning. It could also be to do with social mobility where grown up children having access to wider geographic horizons. Have we, the post war generation encouraged independence in our children, possibly reducing our expectations, discouraging them from seeing family as being a part of their responsibility? I know so many of the older generation do not want nor expect to be a burden to their children but have we dismantled the culture of the extended family at a great cost? 
Where children have stayed in the same vicinity as their parents in order to be helped with child care then the responsibility of caring for the elderly parent might be taken as read. When they live near to their parents and where grandparents are or have been, childminders is it more likely that the aged parent will stay cared for, mainly because of being in the same vicinity? The ideal situation for an elderly person is when family live near by because that way they can be included and still maintain independence without being completely alone.
I am not suggesting that families take up communal living but I do think that we have let the extended family dissipate to such an extent our old people are being neglected and disrespected. Because of this are we seeing the consequences as poor care homes, lack of care in hospital, limited protection from family whilst in the health care system and leaving our aged in the care of strangers. It sounds like we don’t want our elderly and one could ask the shocking question is this euthanasia through the back door?
The Friends of the Elderly charity said many old people will be isolated by the younger generation. It revealed that half a million elderly will spend Christmas alone this year mainly because families are too busy to include them in their festivities how many of these elderly are on your estate? I suppose it is a catch twenty-two situation for most of us, I would like to knock on the door of someone I think may be alone, but then I am worried that I would be intruding or even shaming that person.
I was only able to offer support for my mother up unto her dementia she died at ninety four years old. For a long time she lived alone and was very independent then in her latter years moved into sheltered accommodation spending her last days in a nursing home. I know full well the difficulties in taking care of someone who has dementia and recognise not all elderly can be safely taken care of in their own home. I too want to retain my independence unto the last; however, if that goes hand in hand with isolation and loneliness then I am not so sure. I do not have the answer as I am one of the aging populace but I know I would never want to be a burden to anyone, nor would I want to be reliant upon strangers for my care. Perhaps what we want as we grow older is to know that we can retain that independence whilst having someone close by who cares.

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