It’s hard to know how to respond to the latest in what seems to be never ending line of stories about appalling treatment of older people trapped in the abyss between health and social care.
Today’s report by the Health Services Ombudsman highlighted in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/10/nhs-discharge-system-failing-elderly-patients-says-nhs-ombudsman-report-vulnerable-hospital and covered on BBC Breakfast tells the story of investigations into 9 cases which the Ombudsman says is the tip of the iceberg.
In a section entitled “Relatives and carers not being told that their loved one has been discharged” it says “Almost all of the cases we saw highlight failings in communication between clinicians and patients’ families. The knowledge that a loved one has been sent home alone and experienced potentially avoidable suffering is extremely distressing for relatives”
The report concludes that “Failures by hospitals to notify family members that relatives are being discharged are common features of these cases. Families and carers often play an important role in their loved one’s recovery process. It is therefore, vital that hospitals treat them as partners throughout the discharge planning process and don’t treat their involvement as an afterthought”
The Ombudsman is absolutely right; families should be involved in discussions around discharge and how that happens but again AWOC is asking the question, what about those without family? 80% of older people with care needs are looked after by either their spouse/partner or their adult child. The older the person the more likely it is to be a child rather than their spouse/partner.
At the risk of being repetitive, 1 in 5 people over 50 don’t have children. Next year according to IPPR report “the generation strain” in 2017 for the first time there will be more older people who need care than there are adult children to support them.
Yet still despite the demographics shift in society, discussions and certainly Government solutions around older people and care still hinge on the role of the family.
The stories in the report are appalling but all were raised by family, all of those older people had family to advocate for them, to care enough to raise the issue and make a fuss. In the absence of family, who does know about the experiences of poor discharge affecting people ageing without children? Who do they tell? Who are they telling? Is anyone listening to us?
AWOC is developing a model for a service that will listen, that will help people plan for later life, help them find support, advocate for them when they need it and be a friend when they don’t. In the absence of anything else, we need to find our own solutions because we can’t wait for others to do it. We are not content to be invisible anymore.