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By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for May 2015

Dudley grabbing good headlines over dementia care

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Good headlines in care are hard to find and as rare as hen’s teeth. I was thrilled, therefore, to see that Prime Minister David Cameron has praised Dudley’s approach to caring for people with dementia.

In his  ‘Challenge on Dementia’ published just before the start of Dementia Awareness Week, Dudley Council working in partnership with Dudley CCG, has been highlighted for developing “an innovative, integrated approach to the diagnosis, care and support offered to people with dementia, their carers and families.”

Good, isn’t it?

The report goes on to commend the borough’s three Dementia Gateways, which provide care and support for those affected by dementia throughout all stages of the condition.

Dudley’s Dementia Gateway Service has been shortlisted for a national award in the Great British Care Awards in the personalisation category, having been awarded the West Midlands award in December. The results will be announced in June and I wish the local authority my very best.

As part of the awareness week (May 18 – 24), led by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness of the condition and to help address the fear that many people feel about it, a host of activities were arranged at gateway centres: Roseville gateway, Tunnel Street, Coseley, The Crystal gateway, Brettell Lane, Brierley Hill and Brett Young Centre, Old Hawne Lane, Halesowen.

They are open from 10am until 3pm during the week and people are invited to pop in and find out more from the team of dementia experts.

Dudley Libraries are also supporting the initiative and are launching a new collection of books and resources for people with dementia.

The Reading Agency has worked with dementia healthcare experts, people with dementia and carer groups to select a list of 25 titles that provide support and advice for people with dementia and their carers. Health professionals will be able to use the list to prescribe books to their patients.

I applaud Dudley’s joined-up approach to dementia care and this week has presented another opportunity for the town to shine. Happy news that makes me smile about an initiative that I’ve watched develop and succeed. A great inspiration for the area, my association will be working with the authority, CCG and care providers to ensure there is enough training and support to service the borough’s dementia needs.

Nursing homes seeking assurance from new Government

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The Registered Nursing Homes Association has been quick to seek assurances on care provision from our latest crop of MPs.

In a front page article in Caring UK, the group which has long campaigned for a better deal from government on nursing care, is asking MPs to sign up to five pledges on the future care of older people.

There’s nothing new here, but they stand repeating, so here’s the overview:

Enough nursing homes to meet the need; planning ahead for the post war baby boomers’ spike that will arrive in 2030s; the formation of a new Department of Health Care & Support to pool budgets and oversee integrated care; to stop cuts in public expenditure on services for older people; to ensure funding will be enough for care providers to pay staff a living wage.

The RNHA believes the level of priority politicians give to the country’s older citizens says a lot about the kind of society in which we live.

I believe that too and so do many care providers I know personally the length of the country.

There are around 5,150 registered nursing homes across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Between them, they are capable of looking after just over 200,000 residents. Without proper funding, or indeed in the face of the promised Government cutbacks on social care funding, how are we all supposed to continue to deliver care?

Critically, I want to know how that standards of care are expected to be maintained, especially with the implications of the Dilnot fee reforms that kick in next near.

The social care sector is now bracing itself for another round of deep spending cuts after the Conservative party secured victory in the general election. Plans to rekindle the austerity measures have already hit the headlines. Here’s hoping there will be a change of heart regarding social care budgets. Mr Cameron, please will you hear us? The RNHA echoes many other voices in care organisations across the UK care sector and my West Midlands Care Association is certainly one of them.

Getting a good message out there – for once it’s easy

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Bright and early Editor of the Caring Times, Geoff Hodgson, invaded my emails basket with a timely reminder: National Care Home Open Day is being held on Friday, June 19 this year.

In his blog he recalls a visit to a home in Dorset where standards would rival “any bijou upmarket hotel.”

Glowing with his praise of facilities, Geoff notes that in another decade such places “will surely be the norm and we can fairly hope that the care home sector’s tarnished image will begin to shine in the public mind.”

I’m not so sure such a transition would happen so quickly, but I must not be sidetracked from the real issue in Geoff’s piece.

The thrust of Geoff’s blog is about carehomes taking part in the National Care Home Open Day – an opportunity not only for care providers to promote facilities, but more importantly, their care.

This year’s themes are The Arts & Valuing Staff. Check out the resources page at www.nationalcarehomeopenday.org.uk/ for tips, advice information and arts oganisations you can get in touch with.

TV presenter Gloria Hunniford, an ambassador of the annual event, said last year there were many misconceptions about care homes and 25 per cent of the population had never visited one (frankly, I’d put the figure much higher).

For far too long the care home sector has been marred by the negative press generated by a small number of badly run homes, and National Care Home Open Day is determined to show people what care homes are really about.

On the web page it says: “We want the world to realise that care homes really can be inspiring places, full of unique, intelligent and charming characters, and run by special people that really do care.”

This is a golden opportunity to build bridges with community, strike up new friendships and help change the negative, public perception of residential care. I recall our media man doing a presentation at one of our West Midland Care Association conferences.

Like no time ever before in the comparatively short history of social care has the need for clever, cost-effective marketing been so acute, he told us.

Make no mistake about it, the industry is embattled, short-changed by government, misunderstood and often misrepresented in the media, he added. For many, he said, the Press is seen as a rabid dog always out to write unkind and unfair things about us. I understand. But know too, the media is the best way to vector a positive message. Taking a risk to trust the media could open unimaginable possibilities and there’s a ready-made opportunity with the open day initiative.

Don’t let it pass. Sign up and get creative and help spread the word. It’s all there just waiting for you.

Shortfall in immediate care provision, says data release report

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Nearly half of local authorities are unable to provide care immediately for those who request it, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Freedom of Information requests submitted to 103 UK councils for the period 1st – 31st January 2015 revealed 48 per cent were unable to find a care provider to cover all requests. The number of unfilled hours ranged from 21 hours to a staggering 4,124 over the period.

A report in the online magazine Care Industry News said: “The average number of hours not placed at the first point of asking across all councils was 582 per month – equivalent to the hours worked by five additional care workers. When assessing just those councils where not all care was immediately placed, this rose to an average of 1,221 hours per month, equivalent to 10 extra care workers.”

The findings by Prestige Nursing + Care suggests that if projected across all 433 UK principle authorities, this equates to 2,165 extra carers that are urgently needed, rising to 4,330 among those councils where not all care was immediately placed.

Tighter budgets, an increasing ageing population, the austerity measures generally, the fact that successive governments have not grasped the nettle of funding for social care, have taken their toll. It must also be noted, however, that the data does not give any clues on the timescale of care delivery beyond the initial request. For me, that would be far more telling.

The future of social care is hard top map, but we do know the over-65 population in the UK is projected to have grown by 23 per cent in 2015 to almost 11 million, and rising by 49 per cent by 2035.

The figures can be alarming and this blog is not meant to sensationalise the crisis we face in the care sector. But with the dawning of a new government just hours away, I would very much like to request that social care funding – well, we all know that hard cash is the bottom line – to at least have priority on the agenda of the winners in this high profile political race to Number 10.

May I add, this blog is not political, West Midlands Care Association has no political alliance, and I simply just want what’s best in moving forward the delivery of quality, dignified care for those who are deserving of it.

The new princess brings a special magic to elderly

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The Princess of Cambridge has finally been revealed to the world as Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

Like millions of other worldwide I wanted to know what the baby would be named – a welcome relief from all of the election news and political squabbling filling our TV screens.

Watching the news it struck me just how powerful the presence of babies is. They cause us all to smile, stop us in our tracks at supermarkets and are an endless source of celebration.

In Japan mothers and babies are generally encouraged to visit the elderly in care homes.

In fact, new mums are now being given the chance to get back into work by taking their babies on paid visits to elderly in day care and residential centres.

The Mama no Hatarakikata Oentai organisation in the southern city of Kobe sends mothers and babies into care homes in order to stimulate the minds of residents.

Mums are paid around 2,000 yen (£13) per visit, and their work not only raises spirits but eases symptoms of age-related illnesses like dementia, medical experts have claimed.

Fascinating!

The value of a baby’s presence is gathering credibility it appears with the BBC reporting that the Hatarakikata Oentai organisation is also sending mothers and babies into schools under the “baby teachers” programme to teach pupils to appreciate the value of life.

The magic of a baby’s presence is timeless and cuts across both age and cultural barriers.

“The moment the babies, cradled in their mothers’ arms, entered the room, a round of cheerful ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ gushed from the elderly, whose faces until then had been expressionless,” a report from Kobe, said.

It added: “Some smiled and some opened their eyes wide as they looked at the babies. “Adorable!” one said, while others eagerly extended their hands in a plea to hold one of the infants.

“A 75-year-old woman with dementia who often picks quarrels with others gazed affectionately at a baby, while a 93-year-old man who had been drowsy due to medicine to keep him from acting violently made strenuous efforts to talk to another baby.”

In a world of uncertainty about the future of our elderly care, it’s heartening to know that babies will always impart their own special something.

I can only hope our new Princess Charlotte will have brought some special moments to our country’s greatest asset – the elderly.

Written by debbielq

May 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Inadequate ratings – how does a business ever come good again?

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Right at the start of this month three Hartlepool care homes were rated inadequate by CQC.

During unannounced inspections at all of the homes in January and February 2015, inspectors found that they were “failing to provide care which was safe, effective, responsive or well led.”

Under CQC’s new programme of inspections, all adult social care services are being given a rating to help people choose care – outstanding, good, adequate and requires improvement. The signposting could be a big help for the general public in assessing how good firms are at compliance exercises, but what effect does such branding have on the care providers who have fallen foul of the new Standards criteria?

My concern is that some with less than ‘outstanding’ ratings could still deliver good care, while being poor at some compliance exercise. What’s more, I fear that a ‘requires improvement’ result could ultimately spell disaster as the need to improve grows against less capacity to generate funds to make them happen.

According to the CQC website the purpose of such measures are to:

  • Ensure that providers found to be providing inadequate care do not continue to do so.
  • Provide a framework within which we use our enforcement powers in response to inadequate care and work with, or signpost to, other organisations in the system to ensure improvements are made.
  • Provide a clear timeframe within which providers must improve the quality of care they provide or we will seek to cancel their registration.

Okay, I understand. But a question asked of me continues to haunt me: How does a home, when rated inadequate, improve? The pressure is racked up considerably for such providers as failure to improve initiates a special measures process.

It seems to me that perhaps we should be taking a lesson from education where additional resources are made available to failing schools.

Not so it seems with social care. In this scenario special measures could potentially involve multiple agencies all making their separate demands. For example, as well as the CQC rigour, there could be additional issues with Health and Safety, Infection Control and, of course, the local authority inspectorate. Each could legally demand their own response, while no doubt referrals from authority commissioners would be frozen.

The question which was put to me is a valid one and deserves more than a ‘should do better’ answer.

With potentially less income, a planned raft of reforms essentially drafted as directives by CQC, and inevitable low morale, there appears to be only one miserable conclusion unless extra funding is magically spirited out of the ether. Fact: Investment is needed to improve and perhaps the reason for failure has been the inability to do just that.

Of course, in some rare cases, the scenario could be very different, but my professional experience tells me that money troubles are generally the precursor to falling standards.

Support for schools that fail comes in various forms and in some cases a new management committee is drafted in. Resources for recovery are by the bucketful.

The public sector does seem to have an unfair advantage over private care business in this respect even though both are dealing with public ‘consumers’.

My answer to the question is typically political as I pose another: How is anyone supposed to do much more as potential for generating extra revenue is diminished?

Care providers are an ever-resourceful, creative and inventive breed.

My organisation is there to advise those who find themselves needing help and while we can’t predict winning Lottery numbers, please remember we have access to a huge pool of wisdom and professional advice from our membership and those agencies with which we work.

Bring on the coffee and cheering chocolate now please . . .

‘Modern bogeymen’ – are we prepared to pay for a better care image?

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‘Modern bogeymen’ – are we prepared to pay for a better care image?

In response to a Guardian article where it warned that carers are in danger of being fashioned into “modern bogeymen” because of the emergence of some horrifying cases, the chief executive of Independent Age is calling for open and honest debate about the true costs of social care.

And the underlying question of all that discussion, which Janet Morrison suggests as a crucial agenda for the political party that wins at the General Election, is: Are we really prepared to pay the price for proper care?

Sadly, I suspect we’re not – well, at least the economists, advisers and social funding jugglers within Whitehall – are not.

In a letter to the Observer, Morrison asks “whether as a society we are prepared to pay for a fully functional and fully-costed social care system.”

She adds: “It is not just in careworker pay and conditions that current underfunding is evident. Over 360,000 fewer older people receive social care services from councils than they did in 2008 and the Local Government Association warns of an estimated £4.3bn funding gap in social care by the end of the decade.”

Indeed, the funding gap in looking after the elderly gets lower every day.

Morrison’s comments are echoed by care workers and care providers alike and in meetings across the UK I hear the same dismay. It’s not surprising, Is it, that Independent Age are reporting that every day their call lines are busy with pensioners and their relatives who are struggling to get the proper help they need.

In her letter, Morrison warns: “There is a real risk that the new Care Act could fail for lack of money.”

The response was sparked by writer Barbara Ellen’s intelligent assessment of how with the media paranoia of bad care headlines, many of the guilty escape the scrutiny they deserve.

She notes: “However, while there are some abusers, this excessive focus on bad carers, the kind of targeting that borders on paranoia, means that the real guilty parties escape censure.

“For instance, governments that don’t provide good enough care for the infirm, or homecare companies that in effect fail to pay the legal minimum wage.

“Why is there focus on the few bad apples in the care system, rather than on the chaos and unfairness of the system itself?”

I would struggle to bring to mind all of those care providers I know who would not dearly wish to better reward their staff. But while the purse strings are tightly drawn with austerity measures aplenty in social care I can envisage little improvement.

What will it take to elevate the social ranking of care workers and those they so valiantly look after? Call me a cynic, but I know a bit about PR and its power to often deflect from the whole truth.

Already the political sabers are drawn, Immigration is a huge issue in the media along with other favourites like the work-shy benefit spongers, the NHS and a plethora a of personal embarrassments that seem to grace our TV screens nightly.

But shouldn’t our attention be drawn to one of the most critical matters facing our nation – our growing and ever-demanding elderly population?

Can someone please tell me why this ticking time bomb appears to be missing from the current rash of politically-driven headlines?