In many “care closer to home” scenarios it is assumed that the patient (Owl refuses to call them clients – this isn’t home hairdressing) have some sort of outside support – family, friends or voluntary groups. This is often not the case – especially in rural areas.
So, what should our health services be doing?
“… Firstly, we need to review our care services from the point of older people doing everything entirely without support from family. This includes everything from finding out information to getting their washing things in the event of unplanned hospital admission to creating a lasting power of attorney to arranging hospital discharge to searching for a care home. Only then can we see how much family support is required to make the system work and where we need to change things so it works for those without. Care services that work for people without family support will work far better for people who do have family too.
Secondly, care services must make a greater effort to understand why so many more people are aging without children and the issues that face them. It is not possible to design services that work if you do not understand the people you are designing them for. People ageing without children must be included in all co-production and planning on ageing as a matter of course.
Thirdly services must consider their use of language. Branding services with “grandparent/grans/grannies” unless they specifically mean only grandparents should use them exclude older people who are not and never will be grandparents.
Fourthly, people ageing without children should be supported to form groups both on and off line where they come together to form peer support networks. People ageing without children want to help themselves and each other.
Fifthly, the gap around advocacy must be addressed. People ageing without children have been very clear on their fears of an old age without a child to act as their intermediary and advocate in their dealings with care services particularly if they become incapacitated mentally or physically.
Finally, everyone, both people ageing without children and those who do have family, should be helped to plan for their later life.
People ageing without children must be brought into mainstream thinking on ageing. By working collectively we can as individuals, communities and wider society address the needs of older people without children or any family support. Only by working together so can we do care differently for people ageing without children.”