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Elderly Care In The UK: Are We Blinkered About The Best Approach?

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In the UK there is a social care crisis with little in the way of practical or cohesive policy from a government occupied with other, more pressing, matters. The NHS continues to struggle because elderly people needing care cannot be discharged from hospital because no adequate care option is available to them. With the cost of bed blocking running into billions of pounds a year, resolving the social care crisis should, in theory, be a priority on the grounds of saving the NHS money if nothing else.

It’s difficult to see how the current social care system can be sustained either financially or politically with the number of over-75s in the UK expected to double in the next 40 years. So it was encouraging to see a recent report from the former First Secretary of State, Damian Green, aimed at tackling the problem.

Unfortunately, as Simon Bottery points out in his recent King’s Fund article there are major issues with Damian Green’s proposal – one being the focus on care homes as the solution rather than looking at alternatives such as home care or live-in care.

Residential care is still thought to be the main option for elderly care in the UK, and yet it is not always a viable option – either in terms of cost or local availability. From the perspective of the person needing care our own independent research Better At Home 2019 showed that 97% of people would rather not go into institutionalised care if they became unable to care for themselves.

Our research also showed that:

  • Only 40% of care homes can guarantee residents will not have to move out if they become more unwell and in need of nursing care
  • 19% of postcode district codes have 2 or less nursing homes for clients to choose from
  • Over half of care homes do not allow residents to keep pets
  • Elderly people in residential care statistically have 1.5 falls a year whereas with live-in care the number drops to less than 1 fall a year
  • Over 50% of those in nursing homes never leave the home, even when they are able to
  • 5% of those in residential care do not do a single thing they enjoy or value

These are worrying statistics, but even if a person wants residential care they may not be able to find it, and if they do, it might not be close to home, which could severely restrict the ability of friends and family to visit them.

Residential care isn’t most people’s first choice and even when it is there aren’t always places available so why the continued focus on care homes when looking for a solution to the urgent social care crisis?

Whether elderly care in the UK is funded by a local authority or self-funded the costs for 24/7 live-in care are comparable to a care home. So why are some social services seemingly reluctant to highlight this as an option?

Live-in Care: The Best Modern Approach To Elderly Care In The UK?

Live-in care is simply where a trained carer lives with a client in their own home and provides the specific care they need. Services are unique to each individual and designed to ensure that a person remains as safe, healthy and happy as possible with no need to leave pets, partners or the familiarity of their surroundings and community.

This can be particularly important for those living with dementia as the upheaval caused by a move away from everything familiar can cause real distress. Far from a care home being the only choice for those with dementia, live-in care with a specialist dementia carer results in better health and well-being. And as Paul Edwards of Dementia UK says in his article What Dementia Means in The 21st Century, early interventions through social care can lead to healthier, happier and longer lives.

In the UK live-in care can cater for all elderly care needs including care for those living with dementia, stroke or Parkinson’s disease. It can help combat loneliness and isolation amongst the elderly and help vulnerable, frail people stay connected with their community. Perhaps it’s time we took our blinkers off and stopped thinking the answer is to “pack-off” our old folk to a care home.

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