Care crisis deepens leaving elderly at risk
A damning report reveals as many as three million people cannot carry out the most basic tasks and are reliant on an already critical shortage of carers.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, has called for urgent government action to ensure every elderly person receives adequate care.
She said: “What matters is that the Government recognises this increasing demand for care from older people, and disabled people too, and does something about it! It is becoming ever harder to find good, reliable care in many places, and we fear the problem is getting worse.”
“Government needs to invest the resources to expand the availability of social care, so every older person who requires some help receives it.”
The number of elderly people needing help with getting out of bed, washing themsleves and dressing has seen demand for care in their own homes soar to an historic high.
Yet fewer people are receiving the support they need, new figures show.
In 2021/22, as many as 22,000 fewer pensioners received publicly funded community care, which includes home care, compared to 2015/16.
A rapidly ageing population coupled with a recruitment crisis of paid carers is putting an ‘immense strain’ on an already striken sector.
While repeated lockdowns during the pandemic has accelerated the issue as older people, stuck indoors shielding from the virus for months on end, found their health and mobility had deteriorated.
In September 2021, 1.9m older people (11 percent) were finding it difficult to get out of bed.
Now it is just over three million or 18 percent, according to a hard-hitting Age UK report seen by The Daily Express.
As many as 1.5m pensioners (9 percent) of pensioners found it difficult to get dressed or undressed in September 2021.
By October of last year this had risen to 2.5m (15 percent).
Meanwhile, millions of the frail elderly are struggling to cook for themselves.
Eight percent – 1.4m – found cooking a hot meal too much for them in September 2021 rising to 2.2m, (13 percent) now.
Almost two million requests for adult social care support were received from 1.4m new clients by local authorities between April 2021 and the end of March 2022, according to NHS Digital.
This is equivalent to 5,420 requests each day received by councils – up by 170 requests per day on the year before.
Simon Bottery, senior fellow in social care The King’s Fund, said: “Providers are struggling to deliver good quality care on the fees that local authorities are able to pay.”
“They also face a recruitment crisis with around one in six posts currently vacant and potential workers able to receive higher pay in supermarkets and in the NHS.”
“The latest available data shows that in 2021/22, 22k fewer people received publicly funded community care, which includes home care, compared to 2015/16.”
Campaigners are now warning that people who need help to live independently in their own homes will be abandoned unless action is taken.
Emily Holzhausen, of the Carers UK charity, said: “Without the unpaid support provided by families and friends to older or disabled people our health and social care systems would quite simply collapse.”
“With an ageing population that is living for longer, many unpaid carers looking after family and close friends are providing more care than ever before.”
“The latest Census 2021 data reveals that the number of carers caring for over 50 hours has increased to just over 1.5m.”
“Shortages of paid care support is putting immense strain on unpaid carers.”
“We need a long-term sustainable funding settlement for social care, to support families and the people they care for.”
Between April 2021 and March 2022, the number of vacancies in non-residential care increased by around 22,500 posts while the number of filled posts dropped by around 19,000.
The Skills for Care group says the most recent indicators from monthly tracking data submitted by social care providers do suggest that vacancy rates have started to fall slightly as at December 2022.
Oonagh Smyth, chief executive of Skills for Care, said: “We know that the social care sector is facing recruitment and retention challenges right now.”
“Social care is incredibly sensitive to labour market conditions and so where there are many other jobs on offer, people are less likely to work in social care.
“The plans from the Government’s ‘People at the heart of care’ white paper and the promised £500m investment into the workforce, once it is released, would start to put some of the longer-term infrastructure the sector needs in place.
“The most immediate fixes must be focused on helping social care compete with other sectors. That means reviewing pay and terms and conditions, and talking more about the rewarding career opportunities that social care offers.”
The Age UK survey found the number of pensioners finding it difficult to use the lavatory is up from one million (six per cent) in September 2021 to 1.7m (10 per cent now.
One in nine (11 per cent or 1.9m) were finding it more difficult to shower, wash, or have a bath compared to 16 per cent or 2.7m in October last year.
Cllr David Fothergill, of the Local Government Association, said: “Over a decade of underfunding means many services are stretched, including services for those who need care in their home.
“Domiciliary care is vital work, delivered by a dedicated workforce, that allows people to live an equal life and prevents hospital admissions.
“We have consistently said that £13bn is needed for social care so that its many pressures can be addressed and councils can deliver on all of their statutory duties.
“This is the level of investment needed to ensure people of all ages can live an equal life.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We prioritised social care in the Autumn Statement making up to £7.5bn in additional funding over two years to support adult social care and discharge – with up to £2.8bn available in 2023/24 and £4.7bn in 2024/25.
“This historic funding boost will allow more people to access high quality care and help address some of the challenges in the sector – including waiting lists, low fee rates, and workforce pressures.”
“The government remains committed to delivering adult social care charging reform and supporting those who need it, which is why we are giving local authorities additional time to prepare and providing more funding to help with their immediate pressures.”
Last year John Smith, 90, who has dementia and mobility problems needed carers to visit his home twice a day to help his wife Julie, 80 take care of him.
It cost the couple £1,000 a month.
Now the former Chamber of Commerce international trade expert needs four visits a day and the bill is more than £2,000 a month.
Mrs Smith’s health has also deteriorated through the year and she is concerned that if they spend all their savings on domiciliary care for her husband, there won’t be anything left to pay for any help she may need.
The couple, who have six children between them and live near Christchurch in Dorset, have found the social care system so confusing to navigate with so little on offer they have put together their own care package.
“I have a mixture of agency workers who come in and help and private individuals who I have found myself through recommendations from friends,” said Mrs Smith, who worked for a management institute before retiring.”
“All I have been offered from my local council is two hours free of charge for someone to sit with John.”
“Our social care system needs reforming and it should be reformed to make it as easy as possible for people to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.”
“Older people are better off living at home, they are healthier living at home and it’s cheaper for society.”
“But if we don’t get the help we need at home and accidents happen as people fall over, for example, then they end up with a broken hip in an expensive hospital bed-blocking until an even more expensive care home place becomes available and then we have to sell our houses to pay for it.”
Mr Smith was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2015 and suffered a stroke in 2016. Then in March 2020, he fell and broke his hip, leaving him with limited mobility.
Last year the agency charged £20 a hour, it’s now £32, £35 at the weekends and double that on a Bank Holiday. The people Mrs Smith found privately charge £20 an hour.
His private carer costs £15ph, agency carers £20ph, £27ph weekends, double for public holidays.
She said: “I’m really struggling looking after John. He has very limited mobility, and it’s difficult with the problems I have with my own health.”
“We pay for the carers, and there’s no help that doesn’t cost a lot.”
“Financially, I felt comfortable until fairly recently when I totted up how much we’ve spent on care. The cost of living just makes things even harder.”
“Cancer patients get financial help, but here’s no local or national support for dementia from what I can see.”
“The government doesn’t seem to realise that the separation of NHS and social care doesn’t help one bit and causes issues like bed blocking.”
People age at very different rates, don’t they?
Recently I had my hair cut by my long-standing, 75 year old hairdresser, who is incredibly fit and regularly does 15,000 steps a day.
On the other hand, I have friends of the same age living with major health problems, like diabetes and kidney disease, which inevitably impact, and to a degree restrict, their daily lives.
The unfortunate truth is that our health and fitness are essentially on a downward path as we get older, though if we are fortunate, and take good care of ourselves, we can delay many of the ill effects – but probably not forever.
I am spelling this out because it means it’s entirely predictable that as the numbers of older people in our society increase, there will be more of us managing health conditions and that in turn means that at some point, some of us will need some social care.
The statistics we at Age UK have gathered from older people tell this story well, and it should be no surprise to Ministers that the demand for social care is going up as our ageing population grows.
In addition, the experience of living through the pandemic is accelerating this trend.
That’s because being stuck at home caused some older people to become stiff and less mobile and being unable to get regular medical treatment for long term conditions meant some got worse more quickly.
What matters is that the Government recognises this increasing demand for care from older people, and disabled people too, and does something about it! It is becoming ever harder to find good, reliable care in many places, and we fear the problem is getting worse.
Government needs to invest the resources to expand the availability of social care, so every older person who requires some help receives it.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.