Saturday, 4 June 2011
The Care Home Business
I don't think anyone who watched this week's Panorama wouldn't have felt sickened - if not horrified - at the abuse dished out to our most vulnerable.
Yet we're brainwashed into believing social services know best - the same people who continue to remove those with 'social problems' from their environments to do, what the programme highlighted, 'assessments'. Some of this is with family approval because these caring people think they could do better for their family member. I do hope this programme has opened their eyes.
I also hope it's given younger generations food for thought about where they deposit their parent(s) who can no longer safely live in their own homes. There have been many programmes about abuse in homes for the elderly in recent years and I know it's a heart breaking decision to place a parent in a home, but there are Homes and homes.
Here is Scotland, rather like England, homes for the elderly are supervised by a care organisation and Scotland's now calls itself SCSWIS. How can anyone know what that acronym means? It's the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland. There are many other websites related to care of the elderly in Scotland and all express a devotion to the care of those in their last years. Nouns like 'dignity' and 'respect' are often used to emphasis how much we care about our aging, but words are meaningless when some care homes are nothing more than prisons where conformity is the steadfast rule.
The collapse of Southern Cross care homes and the potential tragedy for residents and staff has highlighted the private care home industry. In Scotland the Elsie Inglis care home in Edinburgh voluntarily closed after being told to make 'urgent and immediate improvements'. The home was being investigated by SCSWIS who said they had 'serious concerns; about standards of care. Why didn't they close it down immediately?
Years ago I had quite a few dealings with what were then called homes for the elderly. They were run by the local council and all provided an excellent quality of care. Gradually they have all been sold to private buyers, many being large organisations, whose main aim is to provide large profits for their shareholders. I've undertaken voluntary work in a couple of private homes and the experience certainly opened my eyes. Tea, the last meal of the day, was at 4.30pm and usually composed of sandwiches. "The elderly don't eat much" I was told. The only other food available before breakfast was one standard-sized packet of either Rich Tea or Digestives to be dispensed between 35 residents along with their 7pm cup of tea. The kitchen was locked when the catering staff finished at 5.30pm and along with the biscuits was a small carton of milk which was divided between the two large teapots. If, like me, you didn't like milk in tea it was a sake of take it or do without.
The homes in which I worked have changed hands over the years and I've no idea about the standards today, but those in which I worked were then graded as 'very satisfactory'. I was young enough at the time to think I'll never ever come to such a place, but as I age I realise there is a possibility that I could have no choice.
What I've never understood is why our politicians think privatising care homes benefits the elderly. More councils in Scotland are privatising home care in response to budget cuts and we are drifting into a fully privatised service. Local authorities insist that providing care homes is too expensive and a drain on their resources. When they sell a home it's short-term gain.
We need a debate about the care home business before more of our elderly suffer the distress associated with collapses such as Southern Cross. Northern Ireland is calling for the privatisation of their care homes because it could save as much as £50m a year. A single tram line in Edinburgh has been funded by public money to the tune of £450m. Are our priorities wrong? Should we be caring for our less-able elderly directly rather than paying private organisations?