Care standards: How do we solve the problem of elder care?

Posted by Anthony Page

In spite of ever more older people needing home or residential care, the British public seems unwilling to foot the bill or take steps to safeguard themselves in later life

elder care & home care fundingConsumers organization Which? today published a damning report on standards in the UK home care industry. Sadly, this is nothing new and we all remember similar reports that have come out over the years. 

How much of this report - based as it is on diaries kept by patients - is uncertain.  Wherever you have an industry with a large customer base, it is easy to find mistakes, bad service and occasionally negligence. The real question is how much of a percentage of the whole has gone to the dogs. Sadly, the lack of in-depth research offers us some insight, but never the full picture.

As said, the Which? report is based on diaries kept by those receiving care at home – but there is no information provided as to the selection criteria used to pick on the survey respondents. Were they already complaining about the care they were receiving or were they randomly selected? We're not told.

This is not to dismiss the results of this report - but it is worthwhile trying to set the parameters correctly. Home care has and always will be a problem for one very simple reason – humans deliver it! It is not a highly paid career and it is very difficult and stressful work.

Adding to this is the fact that local authorities, who are the biggest customers for home care services, are stretched in terms of both money and resources. Gathering ‘customer satisfaction’ reports within this area is also hindered by the fact that many of the people surveyed are in a vulnerable and confused state. Where is the objectivity going to come from?

There is only one solution to this whole question of care in the home – fund it properly! This doesn’t just mean local councils stumping up more money and increasing council tax or the government dishing out more funding to pay for it. The whole question of care for the elderly has been bouncing around for 30 years without an answer.

Many solutions have been put forward for the problems facing care in all its forms - some seem sound (but expensive), while others are just a paint job to hide the cracks of an unworkable system.

But why is this such a difficult problem to solve? In simple terms, it is because we just don’t want to pay for it. If you are young and fit and healthy, or middle-aged facing the ever-rising costs of bringing up a family, it’s not an issues high on your agenda. If you are actually old and needing care, we have a culture that says ‘the government will provide!’ Well I’m sorry to say that those days are long gone and every one of us should be factor in the potential for needing care in our dotage as one of the costs for which we will have to accept personal responsibility.  

I’m not proposing that unless you can pay, you don’t get care – those who have genuine need must always have care. But, those of us who are better off in cash or asset terms should pay as individuals. The problem is that many older people needing care are often short of cash but have assets – houses. The only way to access this cash source is sell the property (not a solution if we are talking about home care!) or equity release, which can be an expensive and complicated solution.

A national scheme is required that is government backed and policed, which effectively lends money at low interest against the asset of the family home. The loan would be pain upon death or the vacating of the house. Families will just have to get used to the fact that their parents' houses are no longer theirs by right!

With cash being released into the care industry, higher standards of service and management can be both demanded and funded, and this will raise standards for publicly funded care as well. 

Times have changed and we have to get used to it. There are too many older people (rich and poor alike) in the system to ignore the need for a fair and robust system, delivering high quality and compassionate care. Remember - you only get what you pay for.

If you want to share your views, you can email me via my profile or at Better still; just leave your comments below where everyone else can join in the debate.

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