As a care sector worker and a carer for a relative who needed residential care, Carol Land has experienced the care system from both sides. She explains why she still struggled to navigate the system when she needed it most.
When someone needs care, it’s often because of a medical crisis and it strikes you like a bolt out of the blue – something that’s never been discussed with the loved one concerned.
This was certainly true in my case. After a nasty fall, my stepmother sustained a broken arm and leg wound. It became clear that she had dementia, which she had masked and had gone undetected for some time. Prior to the fall she had been out and about and was still driving.
Caught up in a broken care system
It felt like the symptoms became the issue of focus, rather than treating the actual person. My stepmother and the family were told what should happen; I don’t feel like anyone sought her views, and decisions were being made on her behalf as they said ‘she did not have the capacity’ to make them herself.
We were her next of kin, but because we lived quite a distance away, assessments were undertaken without my knowledge or involvement. It was almost a fait accompli that she could not go home and needed residential care.
Most people have no knowledge of the complexities of arranging care for someone before they need it, so it’s very difficult to get the right answers when you don’t know the right questions to ask.
I thought that working in this field would’ve put me at an advantage in this situation, but even though I knew my way around the care system it wasn’t easy, and I felt like things still went wrong.
The situation was made more difficult for me because decisions had to be made in a very short space of time. It’s a huge responsibility to take away someone’s liberty, which is what care arrangers are essentially being asked to do.
Rushed decisions and broken communication
The communication between health professionals and social care professionals left a lot to be desired. We also found that information often got lost between the two.
Healthcare professionals didn’t seem concerned with funding issues; they just needed the bed back. However, social care professionals seemed only concerned with cost. I felt as though they weren’t interested if you have savings or are a homeowner; they see you as a self-funder who can make decisions yourself.
But it’s a daunting task when you’re self-funding care and deciding what levels of care are needed. This is an area that the vast majority of people have no knowledge of and there are some big implications to consider.
For example, we worried about what happens when the money falls below the threshold – will the home take Local Authority funding? None of this was mentioned to me and I wouldn’t have even thought to ask the questions about this without prior knowledge from my job.
A care system in crisis
I know I’m not the first person to experience problems when arranging care – and I certainly won’t be the last. You only have to look at the figures to see that the care system is in crisis.
The care home population is already bigger than the City of Manchester, with 433,000 people in care. What’s really frightening is the scale of the problem. It’s estimated that there will be over seven million over-75s by 2025, with more than 70,000 extra elderly care beds needed within that time frame. If the system is under strain now, how will it cope by then?
I’m fully supporting the Which? campaign calling on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to confront the creaking care system, and I’d urge everyone else to as well. After all, even if you have no experiences like mine to speak of, it will come to us all eventually.
This is a guest contribution by Carol Land. All views expressed here are Carol’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.
What kind of battles did you face when arranging care for a loved one? Have you made provisions for your own care or are you too daunted and confused to know where to start?