Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Britain is a country with an old blind politician called David Blunkett who asks the question : is state funded care the answer for old men ?
David Blunkett is a remarkable man, a British Labour Party politician and Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2010 he has been blind since birth, came from a poor family in one of Sheffield's most deprived districts. In Tony Blair's Government he held several Offices of State including Home Secretary.
He wrote an article in 'The Daily Mail' yesterday contributing to the debate about care for old people initiated by the Government Dilnott Report. It was entitled :
It's not just about money. What the elderly need is the love and care of their own families
David, who is 12 days older than me, made a number of points, which resonated with me. He said that, when he was a child :
* growing up on a council estate in Sheffield, people were considered old at 50, or even 40.
* his Mum and Dad had false teeth by the time they were 40 and it was an era where the recommendation was : ‘Best have them all out to avoid toothache’.
* people seemed to shuffle along the streets, partly because of the crippling jobs they did at the time and perhaps also because of the lack of proper nutrition and good health care in those days.
* people feared growing old and having to leave work because it meant they would have neither the income nor the wherewithal to keep up a decent standard of living.
* the average life span after leaving work was as little as 18 months because not only were men physically worn out from working in heavy industry, but retirement meant the loss of all they had known in life.
* peoples' jobs had been all-consuming, the hours crippling and the outlook for enjoying retirement was very bleak indeed.
He went on to make the point that 'in those days, the elderly had something that is missing for so many today: they had the care of their family' and that :
* families looked after one another, family members lived close to each other and gave support when it was needed.
* neighbours, too, chipped in if necessary and older people were not generally seen as a burden.
* this is no longer the case and today, far too many of our elderly and incapacitated are sent off to homes, where they live out their final days all but forgotten by their family.
This is one of the most crucial reasons why we need a serious debate about growing old; about working longer and how we manage to sustain our income in retirement.
Yesterday’s report from the economist Andrew Dilnot was a contribution to that debate but disappointingly, his recommendations seem heavily weighted towards the funding of residential care.
Can this really be the right approach? Shouldn’t we be endeavouring to keep people out of residential care and nursing homes for as long as possible?