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Social services are failing to look after carers – this must change urgently

Posted on 5/12/2017 by

Social Care News

The elderly need care, but so do those who look after them.

Many people who call my helpline (0345 051 3925) for advice on how to cope with the silent, visual hallucinations that can develop when sight is compromised or lost are ringing on behalf of family members for whom they are acting as carers.  The carers tend to be from the ‘sandwich’ generation, living in the middle of teenage or university-age children and elderly parents – possibly trying to fit in a job at the same time. With no help offered from the local social services, they are struggling alone.

Some social workers seem to have forgotten that they have a responsibility towards these people. They have forgotten, too, that it is our taxes that pay their wages. I wish they paid more attention to cases such as that of the lady to whom I spoke this morning, whose experience mirrors so many others.

Worrying that there was no specialist help for her mother, who now needs constant convincing that the frightening hallucinations of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) are not real, she had given up the job she loved to care for her. CBS is not even listed as a condition in its own right and is therefore not added to the assessment form to qualify for assistance – but, in some local authorities, even conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and dementia do not qualify either. Yet these are complex conditions which require the sort of specialist care that most family members do not have the training to give – but are expected to magically acquire.

I heard recently of two people, both of whom have a mental health issue and severe incontinence – the latter is clearly a health hazard and the results of which have to be cleaned up many times a day by, in one case, her partner and, in the other, her daughter.

Both carers have tried, repeatedly, to stress to the GP and social services that they are on their knees with exhaustion and desperately need some lightening of the load – to no avail. From the experiences of people to whom I have spoken, the total inadequacy of some social workers results in an inability to comprehend the enormous pressure being put on family carers. We all know about the huge, ever-increasing workload, but turning away from families who ‘seem’ to be coping – i.e. the carer has yet to collapse entirely – is just not acceptable.

Too many service users, plus too many bad financial decisions by managers in the social services, leaves families (who have paid their contributions all their lives) to cope alone. Relationships are fractured, families fall apart and the person concerned is left distressed and isolated.

My friend has looked after his wife for many years – retiring early to do so – and now his own health is disintegrating

It is heart-breaking for me to watch a friend wade through the ludicrous procedures and protocols decreed essential by his local social services. His desperately ill wife is clearly in need of 24-hour care for her own safety and that of others. Yet the decision as to her state of mind has been taken not by the GP or a psycho-geriatrician, but by two social workers with no medical training. It has taken five months to arrive at this stage, and it is outrageous.

My friend has looked after his wife for many years – retiring early to do so – and now his own health is disintegrating and he has hit rock bottom. Even with the support of the GP, he can make no headway at all.

How on earth have we found ourselves in 2017 with adult care teams that, irrespective of their calibre, are imbued with so much power? Perhaps my friend should have thrown in the towel at the word ‘go’ – but most of us don’t, do we? Through a mixture of love and duty, we plough on until the bitter end, when we hope to receive the support so richly deserved – buit may not be forthcoming.

Underfunding is given as the reason for this failure but there is much more to it. I know one particularly brilliant social worker who, with her team, works miracles for children in need. Her colleagues are bright, intelligent and resourceful people, who work creatively and with great diligence. However, when it comes to looking after the elderly, too many social workers are entirely ill-equipped to do the job.  I can only assume that these workers fell into the job because it is the least popular public service category.  

The postcode lottery, offering differing standards of care in neighbouring counties, is not acceptable either – and neither is expecting the charities to pick up the pieces, which they so often do admirably.  Why is it that the charities can find entirely suitable, intelligent and dedicated people to administer proper care – often on a voluntary basis – but the social services fail?

Source: Telegraph