By Debbie le Quesne

BBC goes on the frontline of caring for our elderly

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Reality TV has a way of tugging at heartstrings and I suspect the documentary due to be screened by the BBC on Thursday evening will be no different.

Just reading the preamble on Protecting Our Parents leaves me with a lump in my throat. The programme follows cases over a year from the perspective of professionals, families and the elderly.

The film crew has been given unprecedented access to the NHS and Social Services’ older adults care teams in Birmingham and I’m not too sure how I feel about it.

We have a social care system that is at breaking point for lack of funds and a government that offers a lot of fine oratory, but little hard cash to help.

It appears this broadcast promises a ‘warts ‘n’ all’ look at how it is on the front line for all the parties involved as pressure on the care system continues to mount.

The programme blurb notes “there are more pensioners than children living in Britain.” True!

In an online teaser it adds: “Betty Williams, Jim Page and Henry Robinson, like thousands of older people in the UK each year, are in hospital following a fall. They want to return home but the challenge for the professionals is balancing their safety and independence.

“Betty has been living alone since the death of her husband four years ago. After her latest fall she lay undiscovered for 24 hours, but she is determined to return home.

“Her niece, doctors and social workers are worried that the cluttered state of her house is dangerous. They want her to accept help to put it straight, or move into respite care. But Betty fears this will compromise her independence.

“After the death of his wife of 50 years and main carer, Jim, who suffers from dementia, was admitted to hospital. Despite having to return to an empty house his family feels he’d be happier in his own surroundings and the hospital team agree it’s in his best interests.

“While Henry is recovering, plans are made for his discharge. But his condition starts to deteriorate rapidly after contracting pneumonia in hospital.”

The intimate personal crises filmed at Heartlands hospital demonstrate the myriad ways the health and social care systems attempt to treat and support people despite not being designed to cope with the rapidly increasing demand.

My worry is that these poor souls have been filmed at their most vulnerable, yet I want the public – and indeed our politicians – to know just how bad it is. It’s only way to lever change.

The pros and cons of residential care, hospital admissions, community packages and supporting person choice will continue to rumble on.

In a Guardian piece, series producer Alice Perman says that she and the team felt “pretty despondent” after finishing the project

Why? Because “there isn’t enough discussion across society as a whole about what we want to happen to us as we get older,” she says. I agree.


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