Recently the BBC reported that the number of over 85-year olds who needed 24 hour care was set to double by 2035. That’s 17 years. Less than 2 decades and we’ll somehow need to have enough support for double the number of elderly people in 24 hour care. That’s a slightly daunting challenge, given the current funding crisis and issues in recruitment across the social care sector is battling.
Before we get caught up in worrying about the logistics though, let’s understand what we mean by 24 hour care. The name is pretty self-explanatory to be honest, it’s caring for an elderly person 24 hours a day. This is done by a minimum of 2 caregivers, who are allowed to work a maximum of 4 12 hours shifts a week. The specific structure of the care will always be dependent on the needs of the older person, however the main focus is always to provide quality of life. This can be done either at home or in a care home, which again will depend on how the older person is assessed. Some people will always be more relaxed and happier in their own homes, no matter their health issues, so for them moving them to a professional environment would not be providing the best quality of life possible. 24 hour care is usually necessary when someone has a severe illness or mobility restriction, which means they need assistance with very basic tasks.
24 hour care isn’t always talked about much, probably because we all have a perception of what condition someone is in to need constant attention, but it’s actually a really great system. Whether it’s at home or in a care home, the person you care about who unfortunately cannot care for themselves, is getting the attention and support that they need. An added benefit of 24 hour care at home is that the carer roles are sometimes divided into personal care and companionship care. Personal is to do with personal hygiene, eating and medications; while companionship lets the carer act more as a relative or friend and helping care for the elderly person, by driving them to appointments, spending time with them and helping with household chores. Therefore, as well as the clinical or medical help that an older person may need, 24 hour care also considers their mental health by treating them as a human being in need of companionship.
So if 24 hour care is such a great process, why is it an issue? The simple answer is money. 24 hour care means that at least 1 carer needs to be working for 1 patient at every point of the day, which puts a financial strain on families or agencies who organise the care. Additionally, if it is 24 hour care at home, then it means the care worker cannot be supporting multiple people, meaning that more people are needed working in the care profession. These issues aren’t rocket science. Money and people. The obvious components that would complicate increasing the amount of care available, but when we’re lacking either one or both of these components, the people who need care truly suffer. So, somehow we’ve got to get our act together as a country by the time 2035 comes around, otherwise there’s no clear way to see how we’ll possibly provide quality of life to the older people relying on us. And who knows, you could be one of them, so why not take action now to help yourself later?