A grey or coloured future for our elderly

As I walked to work this morning, I passed my Mum’s care home and thought how lucky we are that she is so happy and well looked after.  She went there in January 2009, after a stay in hospital and because of her health we thought she would probably last about 6 month.   Due to the wonderful staff, the care, attention and excellent diet, she has blossomed and, at 93, looks as though she could well get a lot more out of life before she is taken from us.

Part of my job is to visit elderly clients in care homes.  I have seen a lot of dismal places, with grey people, dressed in grey clothes, sitting around the edge of grey rooms, living grey sad lives.  It breaks my heart, these grey Homes are so different to Mum’s colourful world.   Residents in her Home have a choice of daily activities, ranging from handicrafts, to bell-ringing (they really do enjoy that, it’s all to do with eye and hand co-ordination) with lots in between.  Mum joins the fortnightly coach trip, although she can never remember where she went, she always says they had a wonderful time looking at the sea eating ice-creams.

The old adage “You get what you pay for” is true.  The fees for Mum’s Home are over £850 a week and amount to £44,000 a year.  Is that a sharp intake of breath I can hear?  In reality, would you expect to pay less for a good quality hotel, with an en suite room, full board, an excellent daily choice of menu, have your clothes laundered and, if you are wheelchair bound, receive personal care from two carers?   In truth, it is one of the more expensive Homes, and I know we were very lucky to get her in there.  We generally only hear about the poorly run Homes but there are very many excellent ones that don’t get any praise.

Unless you have purchased an annuity from the proceeds of the sale of your property, what happens when the money runs out?  More to the point, if you have none to start with, who pays for the care you need?  Once you have assets of less than £23,500 the Local Authority step in.  Every LA has a different funding level, ours pay a maximum of £444 a week.    Yes, that is correct, they expect an elderly person to be fed, watered, and cared for by hard working staff for just over £63 a day.

A care home with Local Authority funded residents pays their staff and all the overheads on this meagre sum.  Is it any wonder that care homes are struggling?

They usually employ staff with very little English and pay a minimum wage and expect maximum hours of work from them.  The properties are often badly maintained and the residents do not have regular activities or rarely any encouragement to socialize.  It is not easy for these Homes to make ends meet and a lot of them are running on empty, often dependent on fund raising events and volunteers.   We will see more and more Homes such as the Southern Cross Group closing.

I fear it will only get worse, with the increased number of elderly in need of care, rapidly rising costs and cut backs by Government and Local Authorities.  Is it fair that our elderly generation, if they don’t have the money to pay for their care, should be left to sit in colourless rooms, living colourless lives, all because Local Authorities pay as little as possible for their care?

It makes you think about your future doesn’t?

18 thoughts on “A grey or coloured future for our elderly

  1. You are so right to point out that £850/week is great value for money given the care your Mum receives. It scares me to think about MIL and FIL getting to that stage, because the grey option is probably all that will be available. As for TNG and I, even bleaker. We should do better, but there again, who is willing to pay even higher taxes in order to pay for this?

    1. It is a scary thought. We were saying at work that if you have no money and no one to look after your affairs, then you get put in a grey home. However, if you have lots of money and still have no one to look after your affairs you can still end up in a grey home. This is why at work we are pushing Lasting Powers of Attorney, they are really important to have.

  2. I have read stories about elderly people who sell all their assets and then embark on a full time life on board cruise ships. Nice accommodations, excellent food, etc. While costing more than a care facility, it is far more interesting, and the care is usually excellent!

  3. This certainly gives one pause to wonder. I am glad that your mother is in a good home where she is well cared for. Would that we all had the where-with-all to afford such care. Hopefully there will be a day in which children and the elderly will be valued and respected enough for us to provide all they need to prosper emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually and psychologically. Thanks for a great, informative post.

  4. This is a very sad and frightening fact in today’s life. I wish it were not so. My mother is still healthy and able to care for herself, but I do not look forward to her or my older age. Sometimes I think, for me, it would be better to live in a beautiful and natural isolated place and die when my time comes. I am being idealistic, of course, but my heart truly wishes it. For my mother, I hope we can do all we can to keep her happy and healthy for as long as possible.

  5. We are daily care-home visiting at present. It is a pleasant place – though not as much action as in your Mum’s.

    I’m terrified what will happen to us when we grow old – and for our relative when the money runs out.

  6. I too was very fortunate to get my elderly mum into a small but well-run local care home where she spent the last few years of her life. I can’t remember what we paid but it was just affordable with her private pension and the rent from her bungalow. I have several thoughts about what basics I hope for to give me personally some quality of life if/when my time comes and one day I will get around to mentioning these in my blog 🙂

  7. It’s comforting to know that there are some places where elder people can live there safely and peacefully and can get the care they need. Most of all, they get to see the loved ones that probably adds a very nice color to it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Amy. It’s like all things in life, good news is no news. We get to hear about the awful homes and there are some very good ones around that need recognition. Now the Care Quality Commision no longer rates homes (disgusting!) it will be difficult to get an unbiased report.

  8. Putting my mother into care was not an option when the time came as she had developed Dementia and homes that could take her were few and far between. We willingly took her in to live with us, luckily we both worked from home by this time so one of us was always on hand to be with her. Looking back , it was a lovely time spent with her, she ended up like a child of 3 yrs and it was a pleasure to look after her as a thank you for the care she gave me in my early years. I have very happy memories of that time.

    1. I moved my Mum down from Hertfordshire to be just around the corner from me. I visit most days, popping in after work and for a saturday morning coffee. She is quite large and wheelchair bound so is in a place where she can be cared for by experienced people. She is happier now than I have ever known her to be. It’s all down to what suits people best. You were lucky to be able to have your mum with you, Dementia Homes are not pleasant places at the best of times. We will both have happy memories.

  9. Those who can, middle class workers, pay for more or less comfort. State pension is … pitiful, and the grey version basically takes most of the pension. Elder abuse can also be an issue.

  10. I have family members in the two extremes. Not quite as full colour as your mother, but still, colour. And grey, very grey. But even the grey, is the best/only option for her.

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