COLUMNIST: We have totally failed the elderly generation

Elderly person. Photo by Pixabay.
Elderly person. Photo by Pixabay.

Most people in their eighites and nineties have experienced a life most young people of today could barely comprehend.

They endured a World War, rationing, National Service, outside toilets, tin baths and much more.

So how do we reward this incredible generation? Fact is we don’t when you consider care provision.

When they get to a point in their lives that they need assistance performing the most basic tasks they are forced to endure a means tested system that is only normally triggered when a crisis point is reached – a fall resulting in a fracture or a stroke.

It’s human nature that they want to retain their independence and stay living in their own home.

But most will reach an age when this is impossible without help – and the burden is normally left to a partner that is already frail or to sons and daughters that regularly give up work to be their full time carer.

So what additional care is available, who decides what they can utilise and how is it paid for?

Well if you have property or money assets greater than £23,250 you get no help at all and you fund your own care.

The local authority will assess your needs if you are under the financial threshold.

They can grant you between one and four home help visits a day.

Each visit (no more than 30 minutes) will be geared to help you get washed and dressed, take meds or make a meal.

But this still leaves 22 hours a day for an elderly person to feel isolated, lonely, depressed and at risk of falls.

I know from bitter experience how it feels to go to bed at night worrying whether my dad was safe, warm and had had a decent supper – thankfully he’s now in a care home.

In most cases this is the point where friends and family are expected to step in to bridge the gap.

The next tier of help is 24 hour care in a Care Home, but social services won’t even consider this until care at home has failed – the common trigger point being the cost of a stay in hospital.

This will cost the NHS £400 a day as they attend to an elderly person’s fracture, hospital admission, operation and re-hab.

The amount the council will contribute to Care Home fees depends on your assets. If they again total above £23,250 you’re not entitled to anything. If you fall below you’re subject to a full financial assessment.

All your assets will be put towards care home fees.

The rest of the fees will be topped up by the local authority but this is capped.

The maximum Sheffield City Council will pay for a care home per week is £463.

This is after £139.45 of your weekly state pension of £164.35 is taken together with a proportion of any savings. You will be given a paltry allowance of £24.90 per week to spend.

The final tier of help is only if you are assessed to require nursing care and meet the local CCG criteria for funded nursing care you will receive an additional £158.15 per week to give a total of £621.16 per week.

But this is still nowhere near enough to meet the true cost of quality care which is an average of £755.50 per week for a nursing home in the region.

So where is the additional cash meant to come from? It’s down to the family once again. They’re meant to be put their hand in their pocket to the tune of an average of £100 a week.

Granted – there are care homes that accept the basic rate but unfortunately you get what you pay for in the shape of lower staffing levels, basic food, poorer environment and, in some sad cases, neglect.

CQC Standards, the impact of the National Living Wage on care home staff wages, inflation and more makes its harder and harder for providers to survive – that is why so many have gone to the wall.

The population is aging at a rapid rate and there has been a 37% increase in elderly people being stuck in NHS beds in the past seven years.

I believe there has been a total failure to tackle the social care crisis which has been looming for years.

As usual the ‘winners’ are the ones with money. They can pay for the care they deserve.

It think we’ve totally failed the elderly generation. Why on earth aren’t we simply caring for them? Why do we pay into the NHS our entire life only to find out we have to fund our own care when we most need it?