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Caring for our relatives

August 21, 2003 12:01 AM
By Peter Carroll in Folkestone Herald Newspaper

The most distressing item of casework that I am currently engaged in relates to the way that the care services treat patients and their families. In this case, a local elderly gentleman has become so ill so his wife is unable to cope with caring for him at home. The stress and strain has actually made her physically ill. The gentleman is currently in hospital. The authorities are now working on how best to provide care for his continued care.

I imagine that every individual person engaged in looking after this man is trying their best. Many of the nurses and social workers will be overstretched. Many of them will be working at jobs that many of us could not cope with and their financial rewards are very modest. All that said, in the case that I am helping with, 'the system' is letting this man and his family down.

It cannot be right that there is endless confusion about what type of care solution is required and whether a care place can be found. It cannot be right that the family are constantly having to press for information week in, week out. It cannot be right that vitally important meetings are conducted in a corridor, in a rush and without the sensitivity that such a matter needs. This is the sort of stress that brings families to their knees.

To the family concerned, the issue of the care of a loved one is not a statistical or management matter. To them, quite rightly, the security, care and comfort of their loved one is vital in the extreme. This reality is not reflected in the way that Social Services and the NHS handle some cases. Certainly, not the case which I am currently working with.

Those that run the Social Services departments and our hospitals need to re-focus on the matter of putting the patient and family at the centre of their actions. This means more than glossy 'Charters' and pamphlets on how to complain. It means more than a few management 'buzz words'. It is about putting themselves in the place of the family and patient and finding out how things look and feel from that point of view.