BBC Panorama: Crisis in Care programme and problems for people with dementia

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.

Val and Ivana

Val and Ivana

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.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

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!

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I worked as a social worker in Hillingdon in the Older People’s Service until I retired a year ago. I saw the same lack of money and resources at Hillingdon and the hard choices that had to be made to try to give the most vulnerable older people the care they needed. I watched the Panorama programme with the same heartbreak with which I tried to do my job especially over the last the 8 years watching the financial situation worsen and, as a social worker, almost begging for funds for care at the panels that sat every week. I was often appalled at the way confused and distraught people were treated.
There were ways that I thought money was being wasted and one of these was on the Deprivation of Liberty assessments. This is a mental capacity and best interest assessments that are undertaken when any person is deprived of their liberty. In theory this is an excellent practice especially to stop people being locked up in care homes against their will. For every DOLs a doctor generally does the Mental Capacity Assessment charging at least £150 and if a self employed Best Interest Assessor is used, they can charge £300 for quite a complicated piece of work. So far so good but why for example does a person who has been diagnosed with dementia (a permanent condition) have to be assessed every year costing the Council enormous amounts of money. I have seen a lady of 109, suffering from end stage dementia, bed bound and totally helpless unable to communicate in any way, being yet again having her annual best interest assessment. In my opinion not a good use of much needed Council money. Actually there was an enormous piece of work done on investigating the DOLs (probably costing a substantial amount of money) which was published by the Government in Spring 2017 stating it was unfit for purpose. However nothing has happened as I am afraid Brexit happened!
One last mention, I hope other people were just as shocked as me to hear that a potential candidate who wants to be Prime Minister says he will cut the top rate of tax for higher earners! This promise in a time of cutbacks and austerity and Councils in the terrible position like Somerset, as shown on Panorama!
The general public need to be aware that the future of our public services especially our social services is in a critical state and demand that this Government, any Government, acts before it is too late!

Totally agree. The CQC is good at judging paperwork not so good at judging care. Consequently care homes lose good decent staff when the workplace in their community is judged unfairly from a snapshot visit. Relatives feel they are being judged for picking the wrong home even though they were happy with the care. It is impossible to judge a care home from one or even two visits. For the most part everyone who works there is doing their best, as are the CQC inspectors. The whole system is very very wrong. And is going to get worse.

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