This week’s writer is the deputy director of a voluntary organisation campaigning on behalf of older people.

Organised a first-year anniversary do at one of our local offices.
Thought it might be good to invite some of the real live older
people who actually used the service during the year. They were
great. We all crushed into the meeting room and shared sandwiches
with the mayor and other local dignitaries. Earlier in the day it
had been a little less glamorous as I stood on a chair outside
cleaning the windows.

An older man comes into the office. A combination of illness and
failing mobility has left his neighbour dependent on two other
neighbours, neither of whom have much experience of caring for a
very frail elderly person. Embarked on my sermon about entitlement
to a community care assessment and am about to give him the local
social services telephone number, when he tells me he’s already
been there and was sent to us. It flashes through my mind that
perhaps social services has delegated its responsibility for
community care assessments to local voluntary organisations and
forgotten to tell us. Or more likely it’s trying to divest its
responsibility for providing any services at all to anyone else
that might take it on. I feel a telephone call coming

Hear more distressing stories about how older people are being
treated in our local hospitals. The prosperous South East is not a
great place to be if you are old and ill. Community care is
rationed to the extent that by the time you qualify you are past
benefiting, and the health care on offer can be positively
dangerous unless you are able to fend for yourself during your stay
in hospital. Must make contact with the local trust. I feel a
meeting coming on.

I’m having an anti-social services week. A local worker tells me
one of our clients will not get a community care assessment unless
she meets the criteria. I explain that the criteria are meant to be
about what services the client might qualify for, not entitlement
to an assessment in the first place. The worker obviously thinks I
am leading her up the garden path and retires to seek advice. In
county-level meetings, social services managers assure the
voluntary sector that its staff are not rationing assessments and
are sticking rigidly to their obligations under the Community Care
Act 1990. HmmÉ

I’m at university today. Ageing and gender is a fascinating topic
and we look at how the experience of being a carer differs
depending on your gender. Male carers get less stressed by the
experience because they benefit from the “Mr Wonderful” syndrome.
When they do the cooking, cleaning and laundry, they get unlimited
praise from professionals and kin alike, not to mention gratitude
from their spouses. On the other hand, female carers find the loss
of contact with friends and their normal social activities
stressful, and their efforts to keep up with domestic and caring
roles are not usually commented upon. There’s probably a lesson for
us in there somewhere.

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