I’m pretty sure I’ve used this title for a previous blog post which means that either I’ve been blogging too long and have run out of things to say, or that the fundamental question of how we, as a society, care for each other in the 21st century hasn’t been answered.
I’m going to plump for the latter. Only last month, the government announced a spectacular u-turn on its much-heralded pre-election pledge to cap care costs. From April 2016, we were told, no-one would have to pay more than £72,000 towards their own care before the state stepped in to help. This would mean people wouldn’t be forced to sell their own homes to care for themselves. Now, less than three months after the election, the Secretary of State for Health, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt has “delayed” this until 2020. By the way, he didn’t announce this in a speech but in a written statement on a day when the House of Commons wasn’t even sitting. Brave, huh?
So, I ask again, who cares? Who understands the burden on carers and their families, because the government doesn’t seem to? According to the latest figures available, unpaid care for people living with dementia – i.e. those cared for full time in the family home by loved ones – would cost £11.6 BILLION if it were state-funded (i). Who is looking out for these people? Who cares for the carers?
It’s a constant refrain and the one issue I can’t get my head around. I know that I can’t fully understand dementia. I’ve spoken to and read the words of people with Early Onset Dementia – people like Kate Swaffer, Norman McNamara and Ken Howard – who talk so powerfully about what it is like to live with a diagnosis of dementia. I spend time with Mum, unconsciously charting her Alzheimer’s, but I can’t know what it’s like inside Mum’s head. And I can accept that.
But what I can’t accept is that those in positions of authority, those we have voted for to provide government (and this applies to all parties, by the way), still don’t seem prepared to understand what CARE really means. It isn’t just about cost and whether the government can afford to honour a promise it made merely weeks ago, it’s about human dignity.
You might not believe this but I sat down to write this morning in a positive frame of mind. Yesterday, Mum’s care home opened a new sensory garden with a bit of a fanfare and a glimpse or two of sunshine. It was a thoroughly joyful event.
Mum raising a glass to the new sensory garden.
I had the chance to speak to relatives of Mum’s fellow residents and the message was the same from everyone. We are lucky to entrust our loved ones to the care provided. It is a home which really cares. Yes, that care has to be paid for and good care isn’t cheap. But it makes such a difference. The government says we can’t afford a cap in care charges – I say the country can’t afford to ignore the issue of who really cares any longer.
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson.
i. Dementia UK – Second Edition. The Alzheimer’s Society.