Do you ever worry about who will look after you when you reach older age and need help with the basic things in life?
It might be a slightly depressing subject but people are living longer, it’s a fact – and often with more complex conditions like Dementia, Parkinsons or Diabetes. Yet the Government’s funding of vital services to help elderly people maintain their physical and mental health, independence and happiness is steadily reducing.
Between 2005-2016 the number of people aged 65 or over in England has increased by 1.5 million, with the biggest growth amongst the over 85s (increased by 29.3%) according to a new survey by Age UK.
They suggest the community based services which help older people to sustain their independence have seen the sharpest falls in funding, such as GP services and meals on wheels - but we also know very well that personal care services in general are vastly underfunded.
Alarmingly, the number of older people in England who have difficulty with basic tasks such as getting out of bed, going to the toilet, washing and dressing, taking medication has soared. There are 10 million people over the age of 65 in England and at least a million have absolutely no access to care or companionship services, and have to fend for themselves.
In addition, Age UK have noted a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions (88%) with elderly people needing treatment for conditions such as urine and chest infections - conditions that are avoidable if 'everyone had someone' looking out for them, ensuring basic hygiene and everyday tasks were not a daily challenge.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says; "If an older person asked us today how confident we were that their health and care needs will be met well in the future, we would be whistling in the dark if we gave a wholly reassuring answer."
There are 2.9 million people aged 65 or over who feel they have no one to go to for help and support, of these 39% said they felt lonely and one in five said they felt forgotten as a result – they also said being able to talk and laugh with someone is the most important thing of all.
Age UK's survey says nearly two thirds of all UK adults felt happy for having someone to eat with and 67% felt happy by feeling they were part of other peoples lives.
BBC Radio Solent shared an article this week about a 95 year old man, Bill from Southampton, who called into the radio programme because he felt lonely – and they welcomed him in, and spread the story virally in order to raise awareness about loneliness in old age.
Unfortunately companionship for the elderly is not a need that can be addressed overnight – especially as our lives are so geographically dispersed, families do not traditionally stay together any longer and giving up spare time to look after older people, for the majority of us, simply isn’t a priority.
Local care providers such as Absolute Healthcare can help in certain cases, by tailoring a routine of care and companionship for elderly people, visiting them daily in their homes, looking at risk assessments, tracking health and safety concerns, but most importantly sharing a meal, having a chat and a giggle and making them feel cared for - not forgotten.
We even offer 'live-in' care across Hampshire as a permanent solution to helping an elderly person live life independently at home, and in many cases this service helps loving partners like Bill stay together, and cope together, in the family home...