It’s funny, if someone had of suggested I write a piece on this subject even a couple of years ago I would have refused on the grounds that I was certainly too young to fully understand the ‘real-life’ issues facing our elderly, much less the implications of providing quality care for them.
Fast-forward 18-months past my big ‘50’, and add a widowed mother with rapidly progressing Dementia and complex care needs to the equation, I guess my own ‘tomorrow’ has arrived.
Now I feel ready, and at least partly-qualified, to consider what for many people from younger generations is still a demographic time-bomb we can think about addressing in the future. But here’s the ‘rub’, to use another well-worn quote – The future is closer than you think.
Let’s examine the facts, or at least a few of the undisputed headlines:
Whilst these facts bear testament to many positive factors, not least an excellent NHS, better living standards, diets and overall quality of life for the majority of our population, the gift of a longer life doesn’t come without its costs. There can be no doubt that access to care and support will become increasingly crucial for the elderly in our society and there will need to be considerable growth in services to meet this need, many of which will be delivered by the beyond profit sector.
How can we be certain this will be the case? That’s simple – and certainly very pertinent given the recent general election – the balance of voting power is moving apace towards an ageing population, whom will become far more forceful in their demands for quality health and social care, not to mention pension and housing provision.
So why is this important to me in my role as a Director of a Recruitment Business? For me the reality is, in my opinion, that there are nowhere near enough people either employed, or volunteering to care for our ageing population. This is further evidenced by the number of jobs remaining vacant in adult social care - somewhere in the region of 60,000. Further, those that are employed in this arena as dedicated care workers and assistants are all too often lacking in formal training around key issues such as dementia and end of life care. This situation will surely be exacerbated as the population not only ages but also becomes more fit and active in their senior years.
There is no doubt that both the NHS and local authorities will continue to play a pivotal role in the health and medical care of the elderly but these are very much services and not care in the truest sense of the word. There’s even less doubt that these services are delivered at high cost and very often measured for politicians to report on their commitment to civic society. We all know that care is about so much more than services and often the lack of care for others in society leads to much higher service costs. We cannot afford this approach and our children certainly can't, so there is a need to develop a vocation and career path around care, with a clear understanding that the performance metric might be an answer to a question rather than the number of successfully delivered meals.
I believe now is very much the time for the beyond profit sector to start setting standards in the UK’s provision of care for our elderly. As a first-step we need to re-educate peoples’ perceptions about this area of care, which has all too often been stigmatised and poorly provided for. Together, the sector and recruitment organisations like Prospectus need to re-package, re-market and re-launch opportunities to care for our elderly as a career destination of choice. The simple fact is the issues connected with an ageing population are here. They are now, and they are not going to go away.