Up to 40,000 older people living in care in England are at risk of social isolation, according to the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA).
The findings, published today by the charity, are the result of of a two-year government-funded research project. They show that at least 8% of older people in care in England are either without kith or kin or have no contact with them.
“We’re saddened and shocked at these revelations,” said R&RA chair and acting chief executive Judy Downey. “It’s unacceptable to find that so many older people are leading such lonely lives.
“We all know that it’s the people who surround us that are important: a phone call, a visit filled with laughter, a chance to chat about the things that matter. It’s utterly tragic to think of older people in care without any of these things in their lives”.
R&RA is now set to launch a campaign to promote the quality of life for older people in care homes.
It wants local authorities to take responsibility for all vulnerable older people within their community regardless of how their care is funded and for the regulator, the Care Quality Commission, to inspect for potential isolation and to ensure that care homes and councils have strategies in place.
It also wants all adult social care departments to be legally obliged to ascertain how many potentially isolated older people are in care and develop and implement strategies for their support.
Among other findings it found that neither central government nor social services departments have national guidelines or strategies in place to support elderly in care who may be socially isolated.
Also more than one-third of care home residents are self-funders and these do not generally play a part in local authority considerations.
The R&RA added there are examples of good practice by care homes that ought to be followed and it would be producing a resource pack to promote best practice for managers and staff.
“All older people in care have a right to have someone in touch with them who cares,” said Downey. “We live in an age where this should be the absolute minimum and we must not allow these vulnerable people to be forgotten.”
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