Look At It This Way - September 13, 2013

WHO CARES? Are the elderly getting the respect they deserve
WHO CARES? Are the elderly getting the respect they deserve
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I was chatting to a chap the other day . He was about the same age I am and he was telling me how he felt at having to find a care home for his mum. She has advanced Alzheimer’s.

You could tell it was a decision at least a decade in the making as he had struggled to cope with the cruelties of this debilitating and distressing disease.

It had broken his own health, his family life, his work, finances, sleep patterns – so often the lot in life for a full-on carer.

It’s almost a rite of passage that roles reverse in later life. My father died young. My mother, 77, is fast forwarding to dialysis with lashings of cardiac care, chronic arthritis and hearing aids at best selective (or elective!) in their capability, on the side.

It’s not easy for a woman who raised three kids virtually single handedly, kept a roof above our heads, food on the table and provided the means by which we could further ourselves educationally, to find herself reliant on others.

It makes for many a personality clash. Alan Bennett would have a sequel to Lady in the Van if he joined us. Lady on the Vin. That’s me, going quietly cream crackers on the settee...

But it’s a labour of love. No-one really wants to see a loved one in the care of anyone other than family or friends. The decision is often forced by circumstances beyond control or duties beyond capability.

I remember chatting to older folk at a fabulous community event organised by a marvellous woman who has since been made redundant.

Many had stepped into care themselves. The garden had got too much, or the stairs, or they had had a fall, or their children didn’t call, or their partner had died and they wanted a bit of company and to feel - well - looked after.

But how well looked after are they?

Our own front page this week exposed a catalogue of failings at 24 of the Fylde’s rest homes. Each fell short of standards set by the regulator.

Each undermined quality of life.

Take the home which provided little in the way of leisure activities other than telly – but sat residents so they couldn’t face it. Or the resident who missed out on 13 doses of new medication over 10 days.

Or the resident on a “monitored” diet who ate takeouts, fried fish, chips and pizza five out of seven days.

Risk of abuse was highlighted, disrespect, damp rooms, filthy bathrooms, lack of care.

Many proprietors said improvements had been made since but must it take an inspector’s visit to achieve change?

Wouldn’t we better extending the care to others we would want our own loved ones or indeed ourselves to receive?

I remember asking a care worker who was heavy handed and impatient with my Gran would you treat your own 
mother like this?

Days earlier I’d turned up with new shoes for my Gran – for her’s were almost falling apart – and been told: “Why bother?

“It’s not as if she’s going anywhere.”

There’s quite a living to be made out of the ageing of 
others.

But cash must be invested in the infrastructure, staff, training and options available for the residents.

These people have earned the right to age gracefully – and no one has the right to impose disgraceful conditions upon them.

Half hour bay is a cash cow

Got caught napping on a disabled parking bay the other day.

It was a fair cop. I hadn’t noticed the two bay spot on West Street – almost directly opposite the municipal car park –was a half hour zone.

Most of the rest was permit parking for up to three hours for blue badge holders.

I’d bagged the first spot. The sign’s above the second. I should have checked. Instead I thought we’d been extraordinarily lucky because the bay’s opposite Christies jewellers where we had left some ear rings to be modified.

We couldn’t have been any closer. It also meant no waiting for the lift in the West Street car park or worry if it wasn’t working.

The transaction took 25 minutes and we emerged to hear live music coming from the Promenade. One of the post-Switch-On events on the Headland.

My mother can’t walk far these days and hardly ever gets into the town centre any more so it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity afforded by that blessed bay.

I wheeled her to the seafront to soak up the atmosphere on a sunny day. We paused for a coffee and returned to find the warden had just applied the fixed penalty notice.

She pointed to the 30 minute limit. It was a fair cop, local government. I paid my £25 penalty online.

But later I got to thinking about the location of that particular parking bay and just how realistic was that time limit. On the face of it it’s fairly handy. Just round the corner from the Town Hall, at least two major banks, BhS, Birley Street shops, the Grand Theatre. And lots of bars – but you’d have to be 
pretty irresponsible to park up for a swift half.

So, town hall, jewellers, banks, building society, shops. And you’re disabled. So you’re not able to nip in and out quickly. There may a wheelchair to get out, a mobility scooter to assemble. And then there are queues – certainly at the town hall, the banks, the box office and most shops. And BhS is a bit of an obstacle course to 
negotiate.

So that got me to thinking what, then, is the purpose of this bay with the half hour zone?

Cash cow comes to mind. Perhaps the council should consider extending the 
period of grace to an hour.