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Respite care

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Topics: 
care services and care homes, carers, respite care

Have you noticed the recent trend for politicians to sing the praises of carers, to acknowledge the billions the save the economy, to recognise they they should have, must have, breaks, and that they need support?

This should be music to the ears of carers everywhere, but not this one, I'm afraid, because the praises and the promises show no sign of being translated into action. So they remain just words. Words come cheap. Words might win voters. But fine words butter no parsnips, Mr Prime Minister.

In my case, help and support are what I beg, or what I buy, but it is not always there to buy!

If the government really wants to help, why not start by looking at residential care? I am not talking about the CQC –I think the libel lawyers would be on me in a flash if I started on that subject!  No, I am suggesting that they examine the availability of respite care in Nursing Homes.

Now that practically all such homes are in the private sector, they are inevitably profit led, which can be very disadvantageous, obviously, to the service user.

A couple of years ago  I needed to go abroad to tie up some business, and so set about looking for respite care for my husband.  I found a nursing home not far from where we lived, which would make it easy for friends to visit him, and which was owned and run by a well known health insurance company, which I thought would mean good quality. It was more expensive than most, but I did not mind that if it was better than most. I arranged to visit, and was happy with what I was shown, note, shown. They could accommodate him on the required dates, as they would have one of their designated respite room available. I could not see any of these rooms, as they were all occupied at the time of my visit. I thought I had struck gold, and duly made the booking.

I had arranged to take Wriggly in the day before Ihad to travel, so that I could spend the full day with him, to help him settle in.

The room turned out to be a cupboard, with a window but no view. If I sat in the guest seat, there was no room for the bed table. By pushing the bed right up to the window wall and removing the visitor chair, space could be made for the hoist to be broughtin. He had to be hoisted out into the corridor, as they was not space for the hoist and the bed and the wheelchair all in the room together.

But that was fairly trivial. I cannot bear to think about the rest, let alone write about it. Suffice it to say that I went away with a broken heart.

I vowed that he would never, ever, go into care again, but of course that was stupid. When we moved house (another story) it was impossible to cope with the packing and the enormous upheaval of moving, with WB in the middle of the crates, and still give him the time and the care he needed and deserved, and respite care was again inevitable.

This time I was wiser, and did more research, although hampered by the fact that health care workers, who know which are the good homes and which are the bad ones,  are seemingly not allowed to give recommendations or warnings.

I discovered (disclaimer – this is only my own observation, and may not be accurate) that the only homes which have designated short care beds are those withnothing to lose, as their quality / reputation is such that they are seldom full anyway.

For example, I discovered that another home, not to far from us, was a decided cut above the rest. I enquired about availability, not revealing I was interested in short term only. The owner, to whom I spoke to over the phone, was charming. He told me that they were full at the moment, but that the situation obviously changed all the time (a nursing home euphemism for 'people die'). He promised to keep in touch with me, but invited me, in the meantime, to visit and have a look round. When I was able to do so, on a Sunday, neither he or his sister co owner were there, but I was shown around by the person in charge, who reported my visit the next day. I then received a rather frosty phone call, from the previous charmer, who was clearly put out because I had wasted his time, by not telling him that I was only looking for respite care. He did not mince his words, which were that even if a vacancy cropped up, they would not offer it to me. When I asked how he could justify this, he replied, in a haughty manner, ”We are the only 5 rated home in this county, and we can fill our beds without difficulty. In fact we have a waiting list. Most people are funded, so why would they want to go some where inferior, when they can come here, at not cost to themselves. We are always full. We do not need 'one-weekers'.”

In an equally frosty manner, I said “So it is all about what you need then, not about what we the public, the carer's need?” I also said that I thought it should be obligatory, under law, for homes to accommodate short stay patients, to which he replied “We are a private company. No body tells us what to do!”

Sadly, he is right. No body does. Nobody can. But I still maintain that the government ought!  Or how else can the carers get the break which they are supposed to deserve?

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