By Leon A Smith
March 8, 2013
Nightingale Hammerson, one of the community’s leading charities, is entering into one of its most exciting periods. The 1st anniversary of the merger of Nightingale House and Hammerson House will be celebrated in April. One year in to the merger there are extensive development works either in hand or being planned. We will be talking a little bit more about these plans in the coming weeks in relation to Hammerson House.
Although I have made the point previously that the physical environment and care are closely interlinked, ultimately our purpose in life is to provide care for those older members of our community in need.
I was interested to read in the news this week that life expectancy in the UK at just under 80 for men is marginally less than it is with many other comparable Western countries. Whilst that may be an unpalatable fact, it clearly is true. From where I sit, however, running two care homes those figures are difficult for me to identify with. The average age of residents at both Nightingale House and Hammerson House is 90. We have many residents who are in their mid-90s. At Nightingale House we have 15 residents aged between 100 and 106. Hammerson House has one resident who is 109 One could say so much for life expectancy of 79! However, the truth of course is that we are only seeing those older people whose health has deteriorated to the extent that they do need support and care. The average age of people entering care homes has also increased very considerably. Most people today coming into a care home are not making a life-style choice but are there out of necessity and often in circumstances which have been pre-empted by a crisis of some kind.
I have often opined about successive governments lack of vision in storing up problems for the future in terms of care of older people. The number of serious attempts to grasp the nettle and deal with the issue of funding for ever increasing older people can be counted on one hand.
There are many things in the future which we cannot forecast and many decisions relating to the future must of course be based on assumptions. But there are some factors which are inevitable
• Hopefully we are all going to be old one day.
• Despite the life expectancy figures, there is a very high chance that many of us will continue to live into our 90s
• As more of us live to a much greater age, more of us are going to have complex health problems both physically and intellectually
• There is going to be an ever increasing number of older people
These are inevitable facts!
The last seismic recognition of this and change in government policy came in 1993 with the passing of the Community Care legislation. It will have taken from 1993 to 2017 - a period of 24 years – before further fundamental change would have taken place. Even then, this would be dependent on the government at the time making sufficient funds available to ensure that this change really can take place in a meaningful way.
Yet the economist and author of the report on funding, Andrew Dilnot, argues that the actual sums of cash needed to adequately fund care are within the context of our Gross National Product minimal. If indeed this is the case, then one can be left with no other conclusion than the fact that older people are simply not considered a priority within our society. This may not come as a startling revelation to many of my readers as we are all aware of ageism in the workplace, within the National Health Service and within other of our National Institutions. It is unrealistic to think that the perception of older people is going to change overnight. The only thing which will happen, however, is that with the passing of time older people, how ever they may be defined, will make up an increasingly large proportion of our society. All political parties will be well advised to keep this in mind.
This week marked a personal milestone for me of having worked for this Charity for 40 years. I am deeply proud to be associated for so long with what I consider to be an organisation which is a shining example of providing quality care to those in need.