Pass the parcel, social care style

    As a retired social worker I have respect and admiration for the
    professionalism of social workers, doctors and other health care
    workers. Therefore, I was shocked by my 95-year-old mother’s
    experience following her admission to hospital with a fractured hip
    and collarbone.

    Not only was she denied the right to return home to recover, but
    her social worker reached this conclusion and made the
    recommendation that my mother should be transferred to a nursing
    home directly from hospital without ever meeting her. This decision
    was supported by the continuing care panel, whose chair is a
    consultant geriatrician.

    Not only do I consider this bad practice but I was alarmed that
    such far-reaching decisions should be made without allowing my
    mother time to heal her wounds or assessing how she would function
    in her familiar environment. The fact that even a young, healthy
    person takes at least six weeks to heal a broken bone – and that a
    frail older person needs much longer – did not seem to enter the
    equation. Added to this, it was well documented on her care plan
    that my mother’s needs had not changed significantly since before
    her accident – in fact she had been discharged from hospital two
    years earlier with greater needs and had managed to live at home.

    When all my efforts to negotiate had failed, I felt I had no choice
    but to legally challenge the social services department concerned.
    Eventually, a High Court judge ordered her return home but only
    after she had languished in a valuable hospital bed for five months
    in an increasingly distressed and unhappy state. To our great
    relief, the Court of Appeal has recently quashed the decision that
    my mother should move into a nursing home.

    At the heart of this matter lies the artificial boundary between
    social and nursing care. This causes untold distress for many older
    people who are often passed around like parcels in order to satisfy
    funding criteria. It is time the government revisited, and
    implemented, the findings of the Royal Commission on Long Term
    Care. Older people deserve better.

    Linda Goldsmith worked in social services for more than 30
    years

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