Care of the elderly: Where did we all go wrong?

Care of the elderly has always been an issue close to my heart.

As a schoolboy I would spend one afternoon each week visiting a frail and vulnerable woman in her eighties who lived on a nearby estate. I would help her around the house and with her garden. She was prone to falls. The shock of seeing her violently bruised face at the door on one of last visits is as vivid in its recollection as it felt then.

In my late teens my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s. She would occasionally stay with us to give my aunt respite from her care. On this particular night she wandered, and became disorientated, falling to the floor. I carried her back to bed in my arms.

Formative experiences both.

I challenge anyone not to be appalled by the report on hospital care of the elderly by the Care Quality Commission.

The additional stories that people have sent to news outlets such as the BBC and The Guardian are almost too much to read.

Much wiser people than I will analyse and diagnose the issue tomorrow morning and beyond. But it is to a nation’s shame that we have allowed this to happen, more so that it is happening in settings that we trust will be secure and caring.

Having spent my day dodging talk of the ageing timebomb and obesity timebomb I have only one thought to add to the debate.

It is that perhaps we have become so focused on the quantification and medicalisation of disease, its treatment, the prolonging of life as defined by its extension rather than quality, that we have lost site of the one word that matters to us most whether we are to be cured or are to die – care.

This crisis in the culture of care in the NHS is the real crisis in our health service – not the one our Government would like us to think. It would seem to warrant a Royal Commission of its own.

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