Complex new government scheme leaves dementia patient perturbed
The Department of Health acknowledges that it must respond to the needs of elderly patients quickly, easily and in a way that fits into their lives. On the flip side, surely everyone would prefer to exercise the right to choose who provides their care and control the direction of their own lives.
Although, you might think it's a given, there are many people who find the responsibility of choosing their carer extremely hard. Of course, if the person is suffering from a mental illness such as dementia, the prospect is all the more daunting.
An article in the Birmingham Mail recently vividly highlighted the issue. Mary Jones from Bromford Bridge, Birmingham suffers with dementia. Historically, her care was arranged directly by Birmingham City Council. A new government initiative known as the "Personalisation Agenda" has shifted the responsibility of selecting the carer, along with the administrative and legal side effects of doing so directly onto her.
The Birmingham Mail sums up how it has made Mary feel – she has been "left distraught by a new care programme which has turned her into an employer for the first time in her life".
Mary’s 42 year old granddaughter stepped up to the mark to take responsibility for the rigmarole of paperwork required to engage a carer directly as an employee; from PAYE to the creation of an employment contract, to mention, but a couple of legal issues arising from the creation of an employment relationship.
For those finding themselves in a situation like Mary’s, there are charities that can assist elderly and vulnerable people. For example, the Centre of Integrated Living provides a variety of support services for disabled and older people who want to take control of any help they need with personal care and daily living tasks.
Help may also be sought from Age Concern who provide support, information and advice on a wide range of age-related matters. It would seem that they have been inundated with enquiries following the implementation of the governmental scheme.
In an age where awareness of elderly vulnerability is paramount, nothing could be more important than ensuring access to quality health and social care. In principle, a scheme whereby a person has the opportunity to control the direction of their care is a contemporary one.
However, most people will feel daunted at the sheer task involved in arranging their care. Indeed, in many cases this is implemented by skilled professionals and experts.
The "Personalisation Agenda" scheme must be praised for its initiative and purpose. The elderly "will be empowered to shape their own lives and the services they receive in all care settings", in the Department of Health’s own words.
However, such initiatives do not relieve the local authorities of their responsibilities to provide care to the public under the National Assistance Act. Perhaps the solution is for the local authority to assess the patient’s ability to undertake the onerous responsibility of organising their care package (or that of their next of kin, where appropriate) and to ensure the provision of support and assistance as befits the circumstances of the patient in question.
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