Linda Colling: Stand up for the elderly

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WHERE do we go from here?

 “Dad’s lost his house, his savings and I lie awake at night wondering who will look after dad if we can’t afford his care costs.”

 Turmoil indeed.

 This loving daughter is not alone in the anguish she feels at the injustice of a care system that is truly galling. Like so many she has the added grief of her father having dementia.

 She told me: “About 19 months ago we put dad into care because we were no longer able to look after him at home. Since then I, my brother and sister have encountered nothing but turmoil.

 “We expected that dad would be cared for, be safe and that all we had to do was visit him regularly and make sure he was happy. However, in reality, we nearly lost dad on one occasion because of care staff failing to notice that he was unconscious. It was only when a family member who happened to be visiting at that time made them aware, that they phoned for an ambulance. There were many other occasions when dad was unkempt, cold, and unattended to.

 “Not only did dad have to sell his home to pay his fees, he pays over his weekly pension, and we, his family had to pay top up fees which rose from £50 per week to £90 per week.

 “We had to move dad recently, because we are no longer able to afford these fees. After he pays his home fees he is supposed to be left with a personal allowance of around £21 but, in reality there’s only about £6 per week left to pay for haircuts, chiropody, clothes etc.”

 As if that’s not bad enough, they are now in a minefield with various services over what they believe is an incorrect fees assessment in his new care home.

 She explains: “The new assessment comes to more money than dad actually receives. Consequently, he has no money left to spend on clothes, toiletries, transport to and from hospital and we are again uncertain if we can afford his home fees. Where do we go from here?”

 Her dad’s terraced house in Southwick, which was valued at £70,000, after a year on the market has attracted three offers and is only going to sell for some £50,000. Out of that they have £30,000 to pay for the care he has received.

 At 76, her father is in good physical health and this family are wondering will he live longer than it takes for his money to run out.

 Sorting out all these problems takes over people’s lives. They are worn down by the worry and complexities as they try to safeguard, not only their loved one’s physical and mental wellbeing but all they have strived and saved for.

 It’s hard and the hardship it is causing has come in readers’ stories, since I said how scandalous and frightening it is that spiralling numbers of pensioners are spending their final years in poverty and debt.

 That’s precisely what another Sunderland woman knows to her cost. Her father too has dementia and with very little support from health and social care.

 She says: “We appear as a family to have to provide all the care required and pay for this due to my father being very careful with his finances.

 “My concern is if he had been diagnosed with cancer he would have been supported by various health agencies, a district nurse to provide general nursing care and support from a Macmillan nurse and may have received financial assistance.

 “Unless we see a radical change in the way this is happening at the present time, we are going to see not just people with dementia not getting the care they need, but a health service which is under incredible pressure because of the financial situation. And when the authorities are asked about their provision, all appear to state it is due to lack of funding.

 “Dementia has been around for some time with various names, but it is here to stay and increasing at an alarming rate. It is set to hit the one million mark in under 10 years, and 1.7million by 2050. But we have yet to have a voice which can be heard. ”

 To end this penalisation and plunging prudent pensioners into penury, action is needed by the Government.

 Age UK is counting on 100,000 signatures calling for the reform of long-term care on the inherent unfairness of the system and the need to ensure older people are respected in the care they need. It’s desperately needed and Sunderland UK is taking a deputation to the Houses of Parliament on March 6. Sign up to the Care in Crisis petition www.ageuk.org.uk/careincrisis or call in to Age UK.