Twice as much need
There was an interesting item on the BBC news web site this week. This article describes how the length of time during which elderly people need daily care has doubled in England over the last 20 years. It’s now 2.4 years for men, and 3 years for women. The implication is that in England alone, the number of people with high care needs will increase by 350,000 by 2015, and yet we are already short of care beds and many councils are reducing care funding under financial pressures. For the UK as a whole, the increase is perhaps half a million people over the next 8 years.
We don’t just need to do more, we need to do different. Even where family are willing to provide some of this additional care they are often just not able to do so on a predictable basis. I’m experiencing this directly at the moment – our family can visit my mother and prepare an evening meal most days of the week, but we can’t cover every day. The available services are binary – it’s either every day or not at all. We’re being put in the position of having to say “yes” to a service that we don’t need for much of the time, and presumably somewhere else, someone is on a waiting list for that very service. I would be willing to bet that the need can be load-balanced across a number of families who can provide some, but not all, of the daily visits and care required, but when the service itself is being provided by a number of competing domiciliary care companies, not organised on a fine-grained geographic basis, that opportunity for load-balancing is lost.
Technology can help in so many ways, but we have to think and organise things differently to access that benefit.