The man my mother married and has loved for
more than 60 years seems long gone. In his place is this stranger,
who looks like him, but who behaves in a totally alien manner. She
loves him with all her heart, and when the rages come, she cannot
understand how he can cause her so much pain.
This is Alzheimer's - a form of dementia that
takes away all reasoning. It disrupts families, destroys solid
relationships and brings heartbreak to loved ones.
Late last year, an invited audience on the
BBC's Kilroy programme discussed older carers. Many were caring for
someone with Alzheimer's. The majority lacked support, and most
claimed it always came down to money. If the government wishes to
promote home care, it needs to look into the reasons why there is
little or no support. Informal carers, along with the voluntary
services, seem to carry most of the strain. And many of the people
needing this support are pensioners with no extra income and no
property of their own.
An elderly friend of mine, herself the
informal carer for her middle-aged daughter, was informed by
hospital authorities that her daughter could go home, but that she
would get no support, and if anything went wrong with her care, she
would be held responsible. Her daughter has multiple sclerosis, and
her mother has cared for her, previously with support from social
services, for nearly 14 years.
The Department of Health says that it is not
responsible as it is now the responsibility of each local
authority. But who is responsible when, through lack of resources,
local authorities cannot meet the needs of their older
Under the National Health Service Act 1977,
according to the advice given out by the Department for Work and
Pensions, the statutory authorities have a duty to provide
sufficient services to meet the needs of their area, but this is
not a legal right of individuals.
It appears that informal carers and volunteer
services are the mainstay of many local communities. The voluntary
organisation Age Concern will carry out a risk assessment, to find
out exactly what your needs are, and where they can best be met.
Once you are registered you can call on it for either respite or
emergency cover for up to 12 hours per day.
We have just been informed that we can have
extra funding for my father, to pay for an extra carer for 2 hours
each morning, from Monday till Friday. Because of constant
badgering, writing letters to the right people, we have finally
managed to gain extra support. My father is just one person among
thousands, who are, or have been in the position we found ourselves
in. My family can now have some well-deserved respite every week.
But what of the thousands of older people out there who need this
What can the government do for them?
Eileen Bailey is a foster carer and
part-time carer for her father.