Val’s partner Ivana has Alzheimer’s disease and currently lives in a care home. Here Val shares her reaction to the BBC’s Panorama: Crisis in Care programme and her experience of the failing care system in the UK.
After Ivana was diagnosed with dementia, she and Val had two years where she could contribute to research, do broadcasts and give talks – she spoke on BBC 5Live, as well as at Salford University Dementia Hub, Cardiff University and a Pint of Science event. They were doing so well, but then a fairly speedy decline put a stop to all of that.
Entering a broken care system
Ivana's Alzheimer's deteriorated to the point where she didn't know who Val was. She went to hospital and was then put into a dementia assessment ward - from there she went into a care home that Val describes as 'wonderful'.
The Local Authority now fund part of her care, but Ivana and Val are paying large top up fees out of their own money to cover the cost of her care. When Ivana was living at home they did not receive any support from carers, even after her condition began to decline.
BBC One's Panorama: Crisis in Care programme centres around Somerset Council, showing how years of budget cuts are impacting the services they can provide - and the lives of people who depend on the care system.
Below Val shares her response to the programme and her experience of the care system.
Val’s reaction to the BBC’s Panorama: Crisis in Care
What on earth have we let happen? This programme manages to show that a wide range of problems are being left unsolved. It made clear that our Social Care system is pretty well shattered. So many good people’s lives are being ruined through trying to care for their partners and family members.
Anybody watching the programme has to be shocked, angry and depressed – unless they are completely lacking understanding or concern for our fellow human beings.
I feel desperately sorry for all the dedicated people who work at any level and in any department of the social care system. They are faced with ghastly decisions every day. Who would want their jobs?
The cuts by the current government (on top of neglect by previous administrations) are an absolute disgrace. We are supposed to be a wealthy country – where does the money go? A freeze on Council Tax and a 60% cut in funding for local authorities cannot possibly be sustainable.
The four carers in the cases highlighted in the programme could not be doing more – all giving up so much of their own lives so willingly and lovingly. The lack of support for them from what we saw seems almost a case of ‘criminal neglect’. The expectation of local authorities is totally unrealistic – small wonder so many of the staff are stressed and anxious – and leaving. They have a legal duty of care and yet the funding to perform that duty is catastrophically cut!
Although the programme was about Somerset Council the same distress is being created all around the UK.
The figures quoted on the programme give serious concern for the future. People are living (existing?) longer so inevitably health needs will magnify. Presumably there will be increasing number of people with dementia in one form or another – is there any planning for this? The government has promised to publish a Social Care Plan but again (and again and again) it has been ‘delayed’.
I have seen at first hand the awful stress that local authority workers, whether in social care work or finance departments, have to tolerate. Every single one that I have met has been trying their best to do well for their ‘clients’, but generally are defeated by the financial constraints. Obviously there are always many conflicting demands on money, but how members of this government can face cameras and talk about ‘protecting the NHS’ and ‘caring for everyone’ defies belief.
A final thought: when will dementia be treated by funders as a medical illness like any other?
For all sitting MPs and those aspiring to run our country this programme should be compulsory viewing!
Campaigning for quality social care
Let’s make sure that people affected by dementia are able to access the care they deserve, when they need it.