Tom Gentry (@TomoGentry) writes for AgeUK from the perspective of older people who live with frailty. His latest article discusses research findings on how people are supported to maintain independence, and where support may be lacking.
If ever there was a demonstration that chronological age is a weak indicator for care and support needs, it was our oldest participant in our recent research that needed the least hands-on support.
At 92, there was little sense of the so-called “burden” to health and care services that is so often used to characterise an older and ageing society.
The main change in Phyllis’ life was to move to sheltered accommodation, which gave her the confidence that should anything happen to her, someone was on hand to help out.
The nature of the support and resources available to the older people we worked with varied hugely. Through the personalisation agenda, there is a limited acceptance that everybody’s health and needs will be different.
EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT
However, this often doesn’t begin to account for the range of differences involved. Income; housing; social networks; local environment; cognitive health; life experiences; personalities; and expectations all play a massive role.
Merle’s daughter, Bridget, was concerned that local support services did not ‘take into consideration … the cultural differences. Not everybody goes to the same groups; not everybody wants to do the same thing.’
Different people derived support and confidence from services that did not work for others. Betty spoke of the extremely positive impact of her local day centre, somewhere she had been going to for many years:
‘My daughter says I look totally different [since coming to the day centre]. You can tell. I didn’t want to come, but coming here is lovely. I didn’t like it when I first came because I have problems with my memory and I couldn’t remember the people, but I know them now, so I’m happier.’
Haydn, on the other hand, was much less interested in day centres, though he was still able to pursue other activities with the support of his family.
In both cases, the net effect was that the support they received helped them to maintain confidence while accounting for their changing needs. However, gaps in support can start to have a big impact on people’s lives… [continues]