Hemel Hempstead man supports Alzheimer’s Society’s calls to government to ‘cure the care system’
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A lack of continuity and communication across the board is how one carer from Hemel Hempstead describes the failings of his social care experience.
As part of Dementia Action Week (17 to 23 May), Peter Kerr, 59, is backing Alzheimer’s Society’s calls to the Government to ‘cure the care system’, after witnessing first-hand the challenges for a loved one with dementia.
An Alzheimer's Society investigation has revealed a 27 per cent rise in people with dementia being rushed into hospital due to inadequate social care.
The findings show that even before the pandemic, tens of thousands were admitted because poor care left them unprotected from infections, falls and dehydration.
This news comes just under a week after the Queen’s Speech made only a brief mention of the Prime Minister’s promise nearly two years ago to deliver a clear plan for social care reform.
The investigation, involving Freedom of Information requests to NHS Trusts who deal with emergency admissions across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found a 27 per cent rise between 2015 and 2019 of people with dementia sped to hospitals with avoidable emergencies.
And in 2019, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of all emergency admissions of people with dementia were for avoidable illnesses and injuries caused by failures in care.
'I reached crisis point last year'
For Peter who lives in Hemel Hempstead, this investigation doesn’t come as a surprise. He cares for his mum, 92, who is living in her own home with Alzheimer’s disease.
He said: “In my experience, it is only when you reach crisis point that you are listened to and action is taken. Otherwise, you are left to get on with it and it seems you’re less of a priority.
“I reached a crisis point last year – three years after mum was diagnosed. Her condition progressed, especially with her lack of personal care. It was raised as a safeguarding issue but I still had to make repeated calls for support.
“I was in touch with mum’s GP and social services but by the time social services eventually called back, mum was admitted to hospital with a water infection.
“The challenges just continued from there. In one case, while in hospital, Alzheimer’s Society helped to get mum a referral under the mental health team.
"The team called to carry out an assessment but when informed that my mum was still in hospital, they said they couldn’t do anything and that we would have to arrange to be referred into the service again once she was discharged.
“Where’s the continuity of care here? There is no integration between our health services which just adds to the pressure. You end up in circles speaking to different people at various stages, all the time having to explain your situation over and over.”
Hard-hitting TV ad campaign
During Dementia Action Week, Alzheimer’s Society has released a hard-hitting TV ad Cure the Care System which is calling on the government to ‘cure the care system’. Supported by billboard advertising, the advert exposes the stark reality of being a dementia carer without adequate support.
In a supporting survey of unpaid dementia carers carried out in April 2021 by Alzheimer’s Society, almost half (48 per cent) reported that they had performed tasks they felt unqualified to carry out because of a lack of support, and as a result, they reported three-quarters (72 per cent) of people with dementia having medical issues at home.
And in an Alzheimer’s Society UK-wide survey by YouGov, it was revealed that for people in the East of England, social care ranks second behind the NHS and ahead of policing, schools and housing, as a priority for government funding.
Accessing good quality care in the future is also a huge concern for many. In the East of England 64 per cent of people said it was something they worried about.
Peter added: “I feel destroyed. I’m not in great health myself but my life is on hold. I never switch off. I’m just waiting for the next crisis point that is inevitable.
“I fully support Alzheimer’s Society’s calls to government but it can’t just be left to funding alone to cure the system. Internal processes need major improvements to help people navigate their way through.”
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: "Hertfordshire County Council funds a range of services in the voluntary sector to support people living with dementia and their families.
Help is available
"HertsHelp on 0300 123 4044 can talk through all the options and is the route into three specific services: Hertswise for groups and one-to-one advice; The Alzheimers Society for support through the process of diagnosis; and Admiral Nurses from Carers in Hertfordshire, for specialist advice when things are particularly challenging or difficult."
Claire Stockwell-Lance, Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager for Hertfordshire, said: “Decades of chronic underfunding and neglect have led to a care system that’s inadequate and deeply unfair – the pandemic has exposed these failings like never before.
“People with dementia have been worst hit, accounting for over a quarter of all deaths and many more rapidly deteriorating from lockdown’s knock-on effects; family carers are exhausted.
“There’s now more people than ever fighting for scarce dementia care. With no drugs to cure or slow down the condition, it’s social care that people with dementia rely on every day.
"But lack of time and dementia-specific training among the overworked and underpaid care workforce means people with dementia aren’t getting the support they need, either in their homes or in residential care, leading to emergency admissions and more pressure on the NHS.
“This cannot be the kind of society that we expect today and that we want to grow old in - never again must people affected by dementia face such devastation.
“The legacy of this terrible year must be a reformed social care system, which is free at the point of use and put on an equal footing with the NHS. We need a system that gives every person with dementia the support they deserve and so desperately need.”
Alzheimer's Society is the UK's leading dementia charity, providing information and support, the charity also funds research, campaigns to improve care and create lasting change for people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Hertfordshire dementia support is available for anyone affected by dementia to access information, advice and support from professional dementia advisers. Call 01707 378365 or visit alzheimers.org.uk.