Coffee House

Society is forgetting its elderly

1 January 2013

During the 2010 general election, two grand politicians came to visit the teaching hospital where a doctor friend of mine worked. He had finished a 13 hour night shift, and, at a loose end, decided to track those two grand politicians’ journey around the hospital. They visited the impressively equipped cardiology wards, stopped by at a premature baby unit (if you can’t have a photo of you kissing a baby, you can at least get one next to an expensive incubator with an even tinier baby inside it), and moved on to the oncology wards to talk to patients battling cancer.

My friend went home feeling rather disconsolate. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with those wards that the grand politicians visited: it was just that between one well-funded specialty and the next, they missed out an entire floor in the hospital. That floor, unsurprisingly, was geriatrics. The doctor didn’t blame the person in charge of the itinerary for missing it out: it was just that he thought the visitors should see what one of the least loved specialties looked like.


Over Christmas, the newspapers have been packed with headlines about that least-loved specialty, but today, the focus turns elsewhere. For every shocking story about the quality of care on a geriatric ward, you’ll hear another ten about the relatives who arrive at the hospital to see their ailing mother for the first time in eight years. Norman Lamb tells the Telegraph that family networks have broken down to the extent that councils need to set up ‘neighbourly resilience’ to keep elderly people out of care homes for as long as possible. The care minister said:

‘We have lost the extended family because families have become dispersed. We need to rebuild that neighbourly resilience that helps people stay independent. If someone is living on their own never seeing anyone, that is a dismal existence, and it often ends up with it all collapsing and them going into a care home.’

Interestingly, the Lib Dem minister declined to describe this as the ‘Big Society’, saying instead that ‘this is not the Big Society, it’s the decent society’.

There does need to be a shift in the way society treats older people (this interview on LBC underlined that more than anything this Christmas), but in the absence of changing the way families work, Lamb is making some very sensible moves by helping councils set up services to help older people retain their independence. Moving from hospital to a care home takes time (and figures suggest the delays are getting worse), and in that time a ‘bed blocker’ is susceptible to infections such as hospital-acquired pneumonia. And the care home itself costs money, and will continue to do so even once the government has capped care costs, as it is expected to do in the forthcoming mid-term review. So any moves to help someone stay in their own home and live an independent and stimulating life there are very sensible indeed. It’s just a shame that society is forgetting its elderly to the extent that government has to step in.

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  • barbie

    I recently broke my ankle requiring surgery, and was out of action for 12 weeks. During my stay in hospital the debate began on how I would access the stairs to the upstairs toilet. I was told, as I’m just 71, I would have to go into respite care at a cost of £600 per month. I was talked to as though I had no say in the matter. I then told them that’s fine, are you going to pay the bill because I’m not. I have a disabled husband and I’m his carer. You can see the difficulties. We got no help at all. Except provision of a porta potty which was put in the conservatory for my use, a trolley to export food as hubby couldn’t carry anything, neither could I with crutches. A perching chair for doing jobs. Then they disapeared.
    The physiotherepist, insisted I do as he said, was rude, dictitorial, and wouldn’t accept I had an opinion. So here we were, sleeping downstairs, using the porta potty, so humiliating, no other help at all. As hubby is doddery on his legs and getting worse, as ‘dropped foot’ he’s 80 next year, we decided to see about a lift. No help there either, no contribution you either have it all paid or nothing. So much for standing on your own two feet all your life. My children have for gone a holiday next year, with a donation from ourselves, we have had a lift installed. I was then able to go to bed, take a shower, and live mostly normal. My daughter as taken most of the pressure as they do, son’s are limited what they can do. They both work full time and my daugher travels 40 miles there and back a day, but was able to start earlier and leave early to come each day. You are now on your own that is the reality, but hasn’t it always been?

  • Dadad1

    When we lived in Germany, they built 3 storey houses with Granny on the bottom, and the other generations further upstairs, moving down progressively as the old croaked, which we always thought was a good way to organise a family.

    We (wife and I) now live in retirement with daughter, son in law and grandchidren in one large house, each with their own quarters. Works splendidly. Long term care on tap if (when) we ever need it. Everybody’s happy. More people should do this; it keeps families together and saves the state a small fortune. What’s not to like ?

  • HooksLaw

    Society is in fact spending large sums on the Elderly.

  • Slobodanka Bobby Graham

    I cared for my mother, emotionally, physically and financially for 25 years. During that time I was married, divorced, remarried, had a child, migrated, worked full time and generally lived life as fully as possible, notwithstanding the responsibility of an aged parent. My mother was demanding, difficult and draining, but she was my mother and I loved her. She died last April, 90 years old doing what she loved best – going shopping. She was fiercely independent and yes, her house was not as clean as it could have been. But we had great times together and always enjoyed each other’s company. I could never imagine her living with strangers and I’m so glad to have had so many years with her.

  • Jo

    It might be an idea to stop using the stupid term Liverpool Pathway which is only euphemising death by starvation and dehydration. When someone is at the point that there is no sense (or kindness) in continuing treatment then the doctor should give a large dose of barbiturate – not the small ones which prolong the agony. Lawyers are despised but there can be no body more to be despised than doctors who use the cop-out of claiming they have not killed somone when they have actually done so by a drawn out and unpleasant method. They may claim that they are in fear of prosecution – if so then the whole topic needs discussing openly with safeguards put in place. Most of them know that they help their own relatives on their way; it’s the rest of us that are left to take the ‘pathway’ – or those of us who can’t afford or manage to get to Switzerland.

  • AnotherDaveB

    “It’s just a shame that society is forgetting its elderly to the extent that government has to step in.”

    Immigration destroys social capital, so government action now to ‘rebuild neighbourly resilience’ is a policy response to a problem caused by a different government policy.

    • HooksLaw

      So its all down to immigration. What a pathetic mindset.

  • Marie1797

    It has been the
    trend for many years for elderly home-owners to sell the ageing
    family home and purchase or rent a private retirement apartment in
    specialist retirement villages with social activities/on site
    wardens/canteen facility/in house care as required and they move on
    to each stage as and when required. The elderly are moving to these
    places to be near their children who live nearby and into such
    retirement villages or apartments within walking distance of
    facilities and shops.

    Even for the
    small % that do care for their parents,there comes point when they do
    get to be too much to cope with either through mental or physical
    decline that they do need to go into some sort of professional care.
    The “Au Pair” would need to be a qualified carer and have to
    live in full time then. It’s more than being a companion, feeding
    them at meal times, bathing,dressing and administering medication.
    It can be exhausting. Children are a lot easier because they are
    learning whereas elderly are regressing backwards and forgetting.

  • mcclane

    Society? Elderly? I hope Isabel Hardman is an orphan & hopes to die young.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    but in the absence of changing the way families work,

    Once again the freakshow victim cops out! Not least becuase of course there has been far too much interference by politicians that has undermined the family but in this case the issue is not with families per se but twith he over centralisation of society into a few obese oversized cities. SOmething that more often than not politicians have encouraged.Consequently people have no choice but to send their children off to seek the streets paved with gold that exist in these otherwise rather depressing and disturbing connurbations whilst they face the later years in the fuill knowledge they could well end up alone.

    As for the rest of it the only thing that frightens me more than be left to be cared for in a care home is to be left to be cared for by the NHS, the Local authority and the Government. I’ve seen the sort of ‘care’ they offer and its a disgrace! Its like being sent to purgatory before you die…..

  • chesters

    Mr Lamb is quite wrong if he is suggesting that pensioners get admitted to residential care because they lead ‘dismal lonely lives’. In my experience, LA Social Service Departments will do anything to prevent (and have to pay for) residential and nursing care. So the opposite is the case: elderly people are ‘maintained’ at home by carers (who are employed by agencies, and are usually on minimum wages and are often drawn from the ethnic minorities) who will come in several times a day to wash, dress, feed, toilet and generally provide what is euphemistically known as ‘personal care’ . In this way, extremely frail, incontinent, immobile, and therefore highly dependent people are kept in their own homes. This, it is argued, is about respecting the personal choice of the individual. It also happens to be much cheaper that residential/nursing/hospital care. If the individual has family and neighbours to help, s/he is lucky – many do not, for reasons identified by other comments in this thread. Unlike Mr Lamb, I see little evidence that people are going into residential care ‘unecessarily’. I have seen too many very frail and vulnerable elderly people living in their own homes who are subsisting in unhygienic and unpleasant surroundings – for example, the carers don’t have time, and indeed are not scheduled, to dust and hoover. If I was in that situation, I’d welcome admission to a residential home.

    • anonymous

      I got mum and dad to go to a sheltered housing by writing a letter. That meant that all the points went in as they read and re-read it. Old people may well lose the thread of arguments, but writing it does help.

      Luckily when dad died he left enough cash to enable us to pay for a care home – £500 a week. – for Mum. That was hard -still is. Early days….

      one bit of advice is to get them moved somewhere suitable as soon as possible. Cos once they are frail they wont help with the move at all and they are not in a position to go out and meet people.

  • Magnolia

    It was ever thus.
    As a child I used to be taken to visit my god mother over the Christmas period, who was a nursing sister on a geriatric ward, to cheer up the old people who had not managed to get home.
    I am part of the sandwich generation. I still have dependent children as well as a very elderly parent and in law to help. I share my elderly Ps with only one other.
    Clever children move away and seldom go back. My own elderly Ps live some distance away and after more than 30 years in the same properties, they understandably don’t want to move. It’s difficult. I will issue an ultimatum when there’s a crisis but i will be doing all the work in moving them nearer. I’ve had to nag my own elderly P to keep active and not to give up. It’s paying off now though because they still have good mobility for their age and can live happily independent.
    Everyone over the age of 60years should be put on exercise regimes.
    I often have to battle with the local GPs who palm The Aged off with kind words and inaction when they’re ill. That is a source of worry and even my unfailingly polite parent can see what a poor deal they get compared to my robust approach.
    GPs need a longer interview with the elderly and they should examine all their patients more. Kind platitudes butter no parsnips etc.!
    Finally I would just like to say that not every old person is loveable.
    Some might be neglected because they are or were horrid.
    Some might have been absolute s*ds when younger and they don’t necessarily improve with age and infirmity.
    The politicians can encourage family duty through their legislation but they cannot compel us to love anyone.

    • Fergus Pickering

      In the same way some children are vicious and should be put down, don’t you think? If they had executed those two little bastards who killed the toddler much grief would have been saved.

      • Magnolia

        I would never condone child killing.

        • Fergus Pickering

          What about killing old people? Why does the age make a difference? Pure Rousseau sentimentality. Serial killers often start very early indeed. Do you think there is a cure? There is none. How much better if the boy who killed the children in Connecticut had been strangled at birth.

  • Stiffit

    “We have lost the extended family because families have become dispersed.”

    You advise people to get on their bikes and go looking for work.
    They do.

    And twenty years later?
    Well, you find their families are dispersed.

    • AnotherDaveB

      Parents not marrying is the larger cause. They’re dispersed before they begin.

    • Daniel Maris

      This is a v. good point and also explains why America has been such a fan of the nuclear family – it’s necessary. To a certain extent that’s why they are keener on religion as well – the Church often stands in for extended family.

    • mikewaller

      Wish you had been around as a “loophole” lawyer when I got my speeding ticket! [:-)]

      May just be the circles I move in, but most of the people I know with this problem are professional middle class who moved not in response to Norman Tebbit’s injunction, but in pursuit of better jobs to support a more affluent life-style. For them at least, having parents in need of help at some distance cannot be blamed on some heartless government strategy; it is simply a downside of an approach to life freely entered into.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    So……in the beautifully atomised ‘multicultural’ multinational multiracial society that
    Norman Lamb and his ilk have created the next step for the State is to create something called ‘neighbourly resilience’.

    In London and most of our cities Lamb and his cohorts have virtually destroyed any semblance of society (celebrate if though!).

    I would apply for any new ‘Neighbourly Resilience Co-ordinator and Facilitator’ posts but unfortunately I would now be barred from publicly funded jobs..

  • Augustus

    In a really ‘decent society’ ageing would be seen as an inevitable and important part of life’s journey. Older people themselves would shape, design and provide the services they want. Policy-makers, practitioners and older people together would develop activities and services that meet all their different needs. Services and activities for older people would be at the heart of communities meeting the needs of all generations, but shaped by the needs, aspirations and desires of older people. Intergenerational activity benefits us all. It allows us to share scarce resources. One of the triumphs of our time is that we are an ageing society. We should embrace this change in a just, considered and creative way, and create a society that is better for all of us, in which frailty is no longer equated with powerlessness, and dependence no longer seen as weakness.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Well said. One of the sad things about these discussions is how identity group politics always seem to prevail over the basic truth that youth and age are only outward aspects of a single humanity.

      • Gary Wintle

        How very twee. Ageing is a horrible thing, let’s be brutally honest. To say it is a nice thing is PC nonsense. Would you rather look like a 20 year old or a 60 year old? Everyone, certainly every woman, would answer the former. We are living longer but the decline is still starting at a young age. “Youth” is still about 20 years, while the ugly rotting phase just keeps on getting bigger. Living longer is only worthwhile if youth increases in length.

    • Daniel Maris

      The sad reality is that “Intergenerational activity” whilst very positive up to a certain point begins to break down when the aged and infirm have lost mobility, meaning and memory. When an aged parent can no longer even remember the name of a grandchild (let alone the great grandchildren they will often now have), there can’t really be a meaningful relationship. There is left only the dry husk of duty and obligation.

      Also I don’t really accept this idea that we should return to an age of the “tyranny of family” that so many Asian and African youngsters experience in our country. Do you really want to be under an obligation to attend the wedding of every third cousin? The obligation to find a younger brother a job? The obligation to loan money to your children?

      That sort of family life strangles creativity as we see all around the world. If there is one thing our country has in abundance it is creativity and we should not stifle that in a welter of family obligations. We should be looking to put in place sensible arrangements for care in old age. We should be looking to banish nepotism and corruption from as much of our public and commercial life as possible. Family has its place but it is not the sole arbiter of good in life.

      • Fergus Pickering

        What are you talking about, Maris? What has creativity to do with it? A bloody red herring if you ask me. If nepotism means looking after your family I am all for it.

        • Daniel Maris

          It’s got a lot – those societies where the extended families rule tend to be lacking on creativity and big on genuflection. Personally I think the nuclear family is probably the best model for how to live, a fairly compact set of family ties and obligations. Once you start loading individuality with family obligations you stifle their individuality.

          As for nepotism that can easily rot away a society once it gets a hold as reformers through the ages have realised. We need to remind ourselves of the truths taught by the Chinese emperors’ Mandarin class, by the Protestant reformers and the Victorians – nepotism is bad for society. There should be objective measurement of personal merit and advancement should not depend on family connections.

      • Augustus

        Nevertheless, and I fully understand those aspects of your ‘sad reality’, the things that make us all unique don’t just disappear as we get older. An ageing society can be one that values difference, and recognises the different contributions that we will all be able to make. Historically there have been quite a few societies that have not forgotten or neglected their elderly, but celebrated having them in their midst. If we collude with the view that once we are no longer economically active we are no longer worthy of consideration, we will never have a sensible settlement for meeting the real costs of long term care, or sensible pension arrangements. Our demography is changing rapidly but seems only to include the pains and nightmares of ageing. Family may not be the sole arbiter of all that is good in life, but whatever age we do attain, and however much support we may need, most want to lead meaningful lives and not just make way for the future by becoming invisible.

        • Daniel Maris

          I think there’s a lot of sentimentality in what you say. I don’t think old people have necessarily that well treated in those traditionalist societies. It’s a bit like thinking Victorian society was highly moral when we know it was not. Yes everyone may outwardly respect old people, but the reality may be very different behind closed doors .

          • Augustus

            Some people, like the native Americans, believed that age confers wisdom. There is indeed some sentimentality in that. But in modern society I am not so sure that’s always the case. People tend to hold on to the beliefs with which they grew up, and in the case of socialists they are mostly myths about poverty and fairness. Life is not fair. A job, work, educating oneself and personal motivation, are still the key to success. A bit of luck helps, too. But one is indeed fortunate for having parents who give you their unconditional love. But, despite the fact that the only real constant in life is change, older people (with The Queen as
            a good example living through 12 Prime Ministers) gain a pretty good idea of who did a good job, and who failed, in their own lives. Because history does repeat itself, only the faces, names and places change.

      • Gary Wintle

        “Intergenerational Activity” is the same as Multiculturalism; its based on a denial of the fact that generations have their own distinct cultures, just as races and nationalities do. Pretending we are all one big happy family…such twee nonsense.

        I know from bitter personal experience that an omnipresent family kills creativity; they stifle your identity (which you need to build to be truly creative) and prevent you from exploring yourself. In our teenage years we define ourselves by making and choosing friends and encountering people and experiencing the world. People who live with or spend alot of time with their parents tend to be social outcasts, losers, and NEETS. Mothers in many cases will happily destroy their children’s future just so they can keep control.

        Its vital for children to get away from their parents as soon as possible to become self-confident and independent. The sooner a child has his/her own bank account, travels alone (and both those should be done before 13yrs), buys their own clothes, cooks their own food, the better.

        The problem with pensioners is that people are now living longer but ageing has not slowed in tandem with this. Ageing is nature’s biggest design failure in humans, and the harsh truth is that humans are at present living too long. Science needs to focus less on prolonging life and more on reducing ageing, so youth is from teens to 40s/50s and old age is 70-80. Old age is currently twice the length of youth; that is unsustainable. This will get worse until we find a cure for the disease of ageing.

        • 2trueblue

          What we also need to look at is the unfit, obese, and unemployed group of people who fit into quite a few of the brackets you put pensioners in.
          Where is the 13yr old is going to get the where with all to have their own bank accounts, buying their own clothes etc? Children need a secure base from which they can benefit from that security to obtain an education to then make good decisions to enter their adult lives. That is what happens within most stable families, it provides a stable base for children to mature and enter adulthood.

      • 2trueblue

        You mention duty as though it was sin or dirty word. It is what makes a good society.

    • 2trueblue

      We no longer live in a decent society when we withdraw fluids and food and call it the ‘pathway’. The RSPCA is there to protect animals but who guards our safety?

      When a person has fluids and food withdrawn and given sedation without permission/consultation with relatives you can call it what you like but it is not a choice. For J Hunt to say that because of a few mistakes we must not be swayed from the ‘pathway’ I despair. The elderly are an inconvenience in our present society, they block beds, space in houses and in some cases money.

      Relatives should have the right say whether they agree or not and should not be penalised if the elderly relative has not put a formal power of attorney (expensive and complicated) in place.

      We should all be wary, we may one day ourselves be in that bed, or someone we care deeply about will be on the ‘pathway’.

      • TomTom

        It is called Euthanasia in English and has a track record as T-4 in Germany – interestingly the policy was only discontinued in the Soviet Zone and remained in place but unused in US and British Zones

        • 2trueblue

          Withdrawing food and fluids and giving sedation without informing relatives is not an option for a civilised society.
          Call it what you like but euthanasia it is not. Honesty is something that most people appreciate, but they are not informed and have to watch their relatives dehydrate whilst they are on this so called pathway. The average time is 29hrs but 90hrs is not unusual.
          That is why I said that the RSPA probably have issues if vets began this treatment when an animal is ‘put down’. It is done openly.

  • Bandmomma

    Bed blocker?? Could that be why Jeremy Hunt thinks the Liverpool “Care” Pathway is so brilliant?

    • 2trueblue

      I am appalled that Hunt thinks it is such a good idea. The process does not include any care, either for those on the receiving end or their families. How can you condone a process that is conducted without the family being included?

  • ToryOAP

    I speak from past and current experience. Two major factors have changed our ability to care for the elderly within the family. The first is that the elderly are living longer but need increasing care and attention – in my late mother-in-law’s case, if it hadn’t been for ‘nappies’, care in the home would have been next to impossible. The other problem is that both husband and wife now tend to work leaving no possibility for full-time care in the home. I speak of course of a traditional family; the situation is not helped by the fact that here are more ‘single-parent’ and dysfunctional families now. It cost around £40,000 a year to care for my morher-in-law, to give her what she wanted, to stay at home. To provide my father with care in a good nursing home will cost around £35,000 a year, no tax relief, so all out of savings and earned income. Better though than leaving them in the hands of an uncaring state to starve to death in their own excrement.

    • AnotherDaveB

      The Mail had an article suggesting that families were using the Au Pair model for elderly relatives.

      • 2trueblue

        Seems a sensible solution. Families have been using au pairs to look after their children whilst they go out to work. Far better to be in your own home that in a nursing home or hospital.

        • alexsandr

          24/7 live in carer is about £750 per week, more in London.

          • AnotherDaveB

            While au pairs “receive board and lodging and ‘pocket money’ of around £3.60 per hour.”


            • Daniel Maris

              Au pairs have restricted hoursm of work. I think about 26 hours per week.

              • 2trueblue

                Employ 2 or 3 to get over that.

                • Daniel Maris

                  They live in your house. That’s the whole point of an au pair. How big is your house? And do you know what it’s like managing an au pair? They require a good deal of time as well – they will have their own problems as well.

                • 2trueblue

                  Yes, I do understand the issues. I have been an au pair, have employed au pairs, and have looked after other peoples au pairs who were appallingly treated by their employers. Am still in touch with some of our au pairs.

  • Naomi Muse

    It seems that the pursuit of selfishness, or greed or fear, drives people to ignore their older relatives. In my own experience a 91 year old, who kept her own independence until within 6 months of her death, had children who found it almost impossible to deal with her prospective demise.

    She claimed that what she was most fearful of was her children being upset. She had not therefore brought them up with the idea of looking after each other across the generations. One flew off to the Americas when ma could die at any time, and phoned from the plane to say, ‘Goodbye’. Another, the eldest, went home to the far end of the West Country and said he was not coming back but to ‘keep him informed’. He did tell his mother on the phone that ‘she was on the way out’ and upset her greatly with his thoughtfulness The third found strength from someone who said she could be strong and arrived just in time for the grande dame’s demise.All of these reactions show lack of understanding, but, most of all, fear.

    We need to bring children up to embrace ageing as part of life, to see that death is in the midst of life and that elderly people, like history, have a lot to give and are not a burden. More three storey houses, which can house an elderly relative in the garden flat, would help. Life is for all. Society is made up of all of us individuals and it needs to be a grass roots change for politicians will only create a one-size-fits-all solution, and that, as we all know, won’t do at all.

    • Daniel Maris

      Get real Naomi. You can’t expect children of aged parents to suddenly give on careers, move houses, switch kids out of school. Absolute nonsense. And in my experience the further away a child moves from their parents the more difficult and annoying in various ways the parent has been.

      Children should do as much as they can without destroying their own lives, but sometimes that is not enough.

      We need a proper insurance scheme for care in later life, with compulsory contributions from age 50 onwards.

      • Naomi Muse

        reality is that I and my late husband have been living that reality as well as working in high powered environments. No saints, just helping people who need it when they need it too. Insurance needed too but that’s not mutually exclusive. We had joint life first event critical illness cover which I recommend to all.

        • Daniel Maris

          What – you gave up your job and moved your family to be near an aged relative and then devoted what would be working hours to looking after the relative, and went on benefits yourself?

          As I say – get real. You are making claims about your personal life and help given to others which none of us can audit.

          • Naomi muse

            moved house. Carried on working from home. Took unpaid leave. No benefits claimed. . Best I could do for people I love. I’d have more money if I hadn’t. You are too angry.

            • Daniel Maris

              I’m not angry. I just don’t like cant. If you can afford to take unpaid leave, you aren’t really operating under the same constraints as most people.

      • alexsandr

        daniel. most people looking after ageing parents are well into their 50’s and may well be retired themselves.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          If you are in your 50s and retired surely you should be looking aftre your parents especially if you are funded by the public purse.

      • Davidh

        “proper insurance scheme for care in later life”?

        The problem is, proper insurance only evens out risk and expense among a population, it doesn’t lessen it. And with life expectancy going up and medical science inventing ever more expensive treatments, it’s possible that the expense in this case is just not payable, however it’s evened out. Unless the good old nanny state steps in and yet again buys votes by subsidising a dream – and borrowing even more cash from future generations.

        • Daniel Maris

          The problem with the current situation is it is a complete lottery and punishes the thrifty. There are plenty of people who could contribute to an insurance scheme between age 50 and 65 but by 70 are on low or no incomes and don’t have any capital assets of note.

      • Geoff103

        Norman Lamb and others who seek an easy hit in criticising offspring for their perceived failure to look after their parents in old age know nothing of the personal dynamics of such situations.

        I am in the midst of just such myself.

        My mother lives 160 miles away, is 92 and needs 4 visits a day from carers, which she partially pays for out of her pensions and various state allowances. This is mandated by the local authority under their rules.

        She is almost blind, almost totally deaf, with very limited mobility, no other relatives close by to visit her and she can do nothing for herself.

        She ought to be in residential care home to secure better care and quality of life. She has no capital to pay for that and neither do I, She is, therefore dependent upon LA policy in this area and they simply move heaven and earth to maintain her in her own home, no matter how miserable that existence is.

        There was a time when my mother was receptive to the idea of a residential home. As she has got older and even more frail she has become more resistant which suits the LA.

        Now, my relations with my mother are not good. My wife and I visit every 4 weeks or so and do what we can. She has resisted all attempts by us to improve her circumstances, whether it be with more suitable meal arrangements, cleaners or adapted furniture.

        I have EPA over both her financial affairs and her welfare, yet my hands are tied both her obduracy and that of the LA. At times I have been reduced to tears by the LA bureaucracy which neatly fits with her obstinacy to resist all attempts by us to improve her lot.

        She is unpleasant and rude to us, to all her visitors and to her paid-for carers. Throughout my life, she has been distant from me and at times almost selfish, though never cruel.

        I am an only child. There is no great financial inheritance due to me. I am now in my late ’60s and the drive to visit my mother an increasing burden. On one recent return trip I almost fell asleep at the wheel on the motorway.

        Who is Norman Lamb to decide the family of the elderly are at fault for not ‘caring’ enough?

        • Magnolia

          If your mother is blind, deaf and socially isolated then she would be a prime candidate for the development of depression which can make people very unpleasant, angry and bad tempered.
          Depression is a treatable medical disease but it has to be diagnosed first. It is often overlooked in the elderly.
          Old people may think of depression as ‘weakness’ but they will usually take an antidepressant at bedtime to ‘sleep’ better.
          Antidepressants can also be effective in relieving pain.

          • Geoff103

            You may well be right in the generality, but her anger, bad temper etc are not new or recent developments.

            Her ‘state of mind’ is a natural development of how she has always been.

          • Daniel Maris

            That’s great, Magnolia, not only are we forcing them to suffer the indignities of extreme old age, but we drug them up so they can pretend to themselves they not suffering any indignities. Depression, far from being a “disease” is very often a perfectly reasonable reaction to life events. That’s why as a for instance you often find children who have been abused become depressed. They are not suffering a “disease” in the medical sense.

            • Magnolia

              Not many doctors would diagnose ‘depression’ in a child without looking in detail at the family and other things.
              Depression in the elderly is often ‘biological’ and responds well to physical treatments. The problem is with the ignorant public who think that ‘depression’ is a normal part of old age or that it is simply one illness rather than one with many forms.
              I’ve seen elderly patients with depressive stupor who needed emergency ECT to save their lives. There’s no place for silly reactive diagnoses in such situations.

        • HooksLaw

          The LA have a choice of continuing with home visits or agreeing to put her in a care home. According to availability you might have to pay some top up charges as we did with my mother in laws partner.

          The LA have duties and as ever there are the jobsworths who run them. Maybe there is some Ombudsman or assessment bpoard who can be appealed to.

          Sadly it is true that for whatever reason old people can become irrational difficult and painful to deal with.

          • Geoff103

            I am grateful for the sympathetic replies but there is, as far as I can see, no way out of the bind we are in except, death. Either hers or mine.

            When I say the LA ” simply move heaven and earth to maintain her in her own home”, I mean they simply resist all attempts at persuasion. Even after mother’s repeated falls at home. In one instance she lay on her living room floor for 12 hours through the night. Social Services have repeatedly told me they will take no account of my EPA over Mother’s welfare and if she says (as she no doubt would), she does not wish to move to residential care, I would be overruled by them.

            What’s more, we simply do not have the option of part payment for a care home place. There is insufficient capital. My mother lives in a council rented property. There’s nothing to sell. Neither is her income sufficient. If she went into a home, her higher rate disability allowance would stop and she’d be on the basic state pension. If the council were to pay, she’d be allowed to keep only £26 a week from that.

            I am retired. My pensions are insufficient to stretch to paying in full or even in part.

            What I have tried to illustrate is that ALL the media attention is focussed on old people being ‘forced’ to sell their home to go into residential care with the inferred criticism of offspring for unyielding and uncaring attitudes, when for me, and I guess many other people in my position, it’s the LA bureaucracy and the elderly parent who combine to block the most caring outcome.

            The Council get to meet their ‘target’ of people maintained in their own home and the parent continues to expect the kind of attention from the offspring that simply cannot be delivered when the distances between parent and offspring are so great.

        • Daniel Maris

          An excellent personal account of the realities we are dealing with here.

  • Dogsnob

    Free Stephen Lennon – a forgotten member of our society.

    • HooksLaw

      Ho ho ho. its so nice to see the forgotten skill of irony so well displayed.

  • Angie Pedley

    I agree with the last comment. The state ought to represent society & as such take care as a back up of old people who can’t manage alone. They may not want to be looked after by distant relatives, why would they? And why should women, for it is nearly always women, give up their own lives to caring again for another generation, usually at a time when their lives have promise of a few years before their own bodies start to crumble. In my experience neighbours do a lot but shouldn’t have to be relied upon. Care homes went out of fashion & it is time to bring them back. Decently run & staffed by people on decent wages, we ought to be able to do this most basic thing of caring for our elderly people.

    • mikewaller

      For this to happen – particularly in the present desperate economic situation – there has to be a quid pro quo. Relatives cannot have both the State acting as their surrogates in the context of carrying for the elderly AND expect their potential inheritances from elderly relative to be protected by having the State meet all the care costs.

      If, by undertaking the care role, a family manages to preserve that inheritance, good luck to them; but if the State has to step in, subject perhaps to a modest residual sum, all care cost should be a primary charge on the deceased’s estate. To do otherwise, is to load yet more of an ever-increasing burden of Government debt on the shoulders of a younger generation who will be living through circumstances nowhere near as favourable those that enabled the potentially inheritable wealth to be built up in the first place.

      • Fergus Pickering

        I take good care to smoke and drink and eat rich foods so as to protect me from being a healthy vegetable for bloody years. Here’s to a long life and a quick death with all my marbles intact. ‘Sudden and unexpected’ said Julius Caesar when asked what kind of death he wanted. Well, that came about, didn’t it? Roll on the Ides of March.

        • Daniel Maris

          Taking up cross country skiing might be more guaranteed to give the desired result.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Not a lot of skiing in Kent, not a lot at all. |Could take up boating, mind you. Never fancied drowning as a way to go really.

      • alexsandr

        so the spendthrift feckless get their care paid for by the state but those who have saved get it taken away. Not very fair is it?

        • Fergus Pickering

          Consider the lilies of the field, my dear chap. These days I toil not neither do I spin. Eating, drinking and watching Test cricket are what I do best. Foreign holidays I’ve never really cared about. I see them as essentially feminine flummery.

          • Daniel Maris

            Very drole Fergus! Yes, the modern holiday does have that feminine flummery going doesn’t it…all that packing nonsense (just throw it in I say)…all that special buying of clothes…all that sitting at restaurant tables for no good reason…all that feigned excitement over unfamiliar and unwelcome additions to the diet.

        • mikewaller

          Very difficult to see how fairness is to be achieved by making things free to all in this generation and dumping the entire cost on the next, and the next, and the next……

  • Rhoda Klapp

    It’s worth considering who or what we think ‘society’ is in this context. It may be a useful word for a politician on the make, but in the absence of a definition it is no use for analysis of a real problem. The problem is the change of status of ‘duty’. In times gone by, it was your duty to look after the old, not all of them, just the ones your were related to. Families worked it out, and generally some unfortunate daughter-in-law got lumbered with the work. If they did not, there was shame in the eyes of the neighbours. Now, the state is first in line to provide for those who can’t do for themselves. If we don’t like the old folks, we don’t need to take responsibility for them. And there is no shame, even if we knew our neighbours, which we probably don’t. That daughter-in-law has a job, now, even a career.

    Now, who is going to roll that back? Can’t be done, so no use crying about it. Society is not going to fix this except in the form of state action. Which is what prevents the big society concept from working. The state will never let it happen, will never stop interfering, will never abandon any position it has worked its way into. The problem will only get worse. Ask that awful doctor who posted a few weeks back on the Liverpool Care Pathway.

    • Stranger

      Too true. “Society” whatever that means may be, but not all of us are. Between us my partner and I have been doing our bit and looking after our elderly parents for over twenty years.

      • mcclane

        Four of us look after ours. There’s no one to look after me.

      • Eddie

        Yes, and many others do to.

        These days, that is FAR better than leaving your trust in nurses (half of whom don’t give a shit and see doing dirty work like cleaning old patients as below them) or care workers (always late, bad English, light fingers, also don’t give a shit).

        I know many who care for elderly relatives and no wonder. I have seen the conditions in hopsitals, where – for whatever reason – elderly patients are left unwashed, unfed and unlistened too. One elderly relative of mine told me that the buzzer above her bed was meant to be answered immediately – when she buzzed for a commode it arrived 2 hours later!

        Let’s start sacking nurses who are crap at their jobs – about a quarter to a half lack compassion and are just in it for the money (good money too, what with the corrupt nurses union supporting bad nurses and demanding parity with doctors!).
        Journalists like Christina Patterson have written extensively about the shocking attitudes of some nurses. My experience is that some are fine, but around half are not. That did not use to be the case. Now, nurse earn too much and have deluded ideas about their high graduate status – and there are no ward sisters to tell them off either!

        Let’s give MASSIVE fines for hospitals where the elderly are not cared for properly too.

        Let’s stop giving unnecessary treatemnt to ungrateful vain people to pay for it (no nonsense homeopathy or cosmentic prodecures). And no foreign nationals treated unless they pay up front either.

    • TomTo,

      The State ? There are lots of people being dumped with the obligation by their selfish siblings and whose lives are blighted by caring for elderly relatives. Then after their passing the selfish siblings become very concerned to see Wills and when the Carer finds they have been assigned as Attorneys of EPAs or even Executors of Wills watch the selfish Siblings demand and harry and make life hell for those who have had to care for the deceased on the basis of they want their money in cash now. To be scrupulously fair the deceased has made every relative an equal beneficiary and left the poor Carer-turned-Executor to fend off the avaricious relatives who find whatever sleazy Solicitor is available to harry and threaten if they aren’t serviced and given what they feel is their entitlement. When you have had the full cycle of caring for elderly relatives on their death pathway and buried them,, eulogised them. cleared their homes, and filed Probate, filed their tax forms which they could not be bothered to file for years, and then watched the family hatreds surface as they grasp for bricks to be turned into cash and paid out in gold…….well you are not quite as charitably inclined as Norman Lamb and start to feel a sense of exploitation by the aged and their family.

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