Today sees the launch of Mind the Care Gap, a campaign to encourage an honest conversation about the challenges we face as our population continues to age. We draw upon the views and experiences of frontline health and care professionals, as well as older people providing or in need of care, to explore key facets of the care deficit.
The aim is to highlight the everyday problems people encounter and to flesh out the parameters of a new Care Covenant – a settlement for health and care that provides the right services for everyone whilst recognising the benefits of living longer.
This week, we focus on social isolation and older people living with long-term conditions. Loneliness is a tragedy for anyone, particularly for those people in later life who do not have any contact with friends or family, or any loved ones at all. It can also have a serious impact on somebody’s health.
Jane Steer, who lives alone with a number of different health conditions, highlighted her concerns regarding access to health and wellbeing provision:
“The disabilities that I have are numerous, some of which I have had since I was very young, being born with partial vision. I didn’t need to access many health services until later on in life. When I came to access more support to manage my disabilities, I discovered how difficult it was to be able to get access to the right health services to manage my conditions.”
An adult social care worker spoke of the need to allow professionals more time to deliver face-to-face support for older people living alone.
“A telephone call assessment doesn’t give you that realistic a picture. A patient can say they’re fine, then in a week’s time they’ve ended up in hospital because they were not coping and the home environment is in absolute need of support, advice and guidance.”
Dr Joshi, a GP in Leicestershire, talked to us about the link between mental health and loneliness.
“Often as GPs when we go into people’s homes, the medical issue tends not to be the primary problem because they are not functioning, they cannot function, there is a breakdown because they cannot manage their daily activities and what you really need then is an integrated care approach to support that patient's care. A lot of the time, poor mental health and loneliness plays a big part in how a patient deals with their medical issues.”
Our campaign will shine a light on the challenges we all need to address in advance of the Government’s Green Paper on adult social care in the Summer, which will provide a further opportunity for people to inform urgently needed reforms to care provision in England.