Behind my office in Bude is St Hilary’s Residential Care Home. This has been run by the charity Cornwall Care, which provides care for more than 1,700 older people in Cornwall. St Hilary’s had space for 37 occupants, but the figure had dropped to 17 residents, making it commercially untenable to carry on.
The Chief Executive of Cornwall Care was quoted as saying that “These challenges are not unique to Cornwall Care and reflect a general national trend away from residential care towards services being delivered in people’s own homes, and when they do need care it tends to be more specialist in nature to cater for more complex needs like dementia.”
Cornwall Care indicated it was responding to the changing needs of older people in Cornwall by planning to build a series of care villages. Such villages would meet the nursing and dementia care needs of older people. On the one hand they would be able to live independently, but have immediate care at hand, with a specialist nursing home at the village centre. Wadebridge would be the first place in Cornwall to have a planning application for such a village – in this case 72 bed purpose-built care home with 60 extra care units in a development costing £15 million.
But then care in the home is also subject to market volatility. It was recently announced, for example, that Powys in Wales is reducing the number of companies with council contracts to provide such care from the current 20 companies to only 4. Budgets are becoming increasingly stretched, and local authorities are having to make cuts wherever possible.
In the last Budget we saw the Chancellor taking the shackles off pension funds, enabling pensioners to invest or withdraw funds as they effectively see fit. However, the sting in the tail for older people who cash in their pensions is that they might lose their right to free social care if they fall ill or become too frail to look after themselves. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Age UK have warned that people without large assets who cashed in pension savings could become trapped into paying care costs which they would have avoided if their money had remained invested in a pension.
Meanwhile the “failing to care coalition” has called for an end to the wholly unnecessary and decidedly distressing reassessment for those with progressive and non-improving conditions in accessing NHS continuing care. Having such a condition is one of life’s great handicaps. But making the victim continue to prove it time and again simply increases their worry and that of their carers.
So, the picture is decidedly worrying when it comes to care provision for the elderly. There are many charities out there, and many websites, including the Government’s own website, which offer free help and advice. If you are looking for care provision for the elderly or have a relative who may need help, then advance homework will, I am sure, pay dividends.
Bude & Holsworthy