The Changing Landscape of Care

Talk at John Ford Group given by Simon Prestney CEO of Age Concern Colchester

It was great spending some time with John Ford Group today in supporting the launch of their new adaptation centre. As requested, the short talk I gave on changes for those in later years is here. We are very grateful for everything you and the team have done John and look forward to working together closely to make life better for those in later years. 

According to Essex county council’s latest annual report, the population of older people in Essex is expected to grow by 21% over the next decade, so demand for quality care solutions is growing. Nationally the figure over the next 17 years is nearly a 41% rise. By 2040 almost a quarter of the population will be aged 65 or over.

Essex County Council has reduced admissions to permanent care homes from 92 per 100,000 to 27 per 100,000 residents in under a year. This is a significant shift and is driven by a lot of activity improving care and solutions for individuals to stay at home rather than moving to a care home.

Why this shift? Put simply people are happier at home and the rise in baby boomers means there simply isn’t the right capacity for permanent care home places. John Ford Group have recognised this and have responded by being at the forefront of changes in the home and solutions for those in later years in East Anglia to enable home living.

In established psychologist Barry Fogel’s paper, “The Psychological Aspects of Staying at Home”, he identifies 6 benefits of staying at home in old age as opposed to living in a care home. These are: Independence, Maintenance, Community, Socialisation, Familiarity and Significance.

Fogel’s research likens a home to a loved one and when making decisions the love transcends usual rational decision making. Anyone who has gone through this process with a loved one will recognise the pain involved.

Statistically, people in later years fear a loss of independence more than they do dying. This can be for a variety of reasons, from a lack of privacy to having to adhere to strict schedules at nursing homes. This can erase the usual personal habits and routines. Conversely, living at home in older age can mean more freedom to remain true to yourself and usual manner of being, contributing to overall happiness and wellbeing.

‘Maintenance’ refers to how effectively elderly people can maintain their health and comfort. Some care homes can be misleading by assuring users and their families that there is 24/7 medical care, but this is not always the case. At home, you can tailor your treatments to your personal circumstances. You are also more likely to recover from illnesses quicker and more effectively at home and are not in an environment surrounded by others suffering from illnesses.

A sense of Community and Socialisation can also be found at home, by staying connected with neighbours and old friends. According to the Guardian’s research, isolation and loneliness can shorten lifespan dramatically. Age UK research details that the effects of loneliness on health can have the same comparative impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Home care is typically one to one, where a relationship is built with a carer and when at home you can entertain family and friends whenever you like.

Many care homes also prohibit pet ownership, which is linked to a happier and longer life for those in later years which won’t be a problem if you choose to live at home.

A familiar environment surrounded by personal possessions allows fond memories which are often lost when moving to a care home. The home and possessions are a constant reminder of significant memories of milestones in life, such as where their children grew up or the first home bought together as a couple. These strong memories are associated with preventing or helping with symptoms of Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Finally, financially care homes can be very costly, particularly if your relative has to fund their own care. According to last year’s Telegraph data, being cared for at home can not only be more cost-effective but can also mean that the value of their property is not included in the means testing process, so they can qualify for funding for care.

There is a social movement within Essex and more widely that will allow a growing sense of community for those in later years. The loneliness and social isolation forum have a wide group of different organisations, NHS, third sector and council representatives who are driving change and enabling local communities to work harder at looking after those in later years taking a collective approach.

The third sector has a clear place to step up to the plate and at Age Concern Colchester we deliver a personalised befriending service coupled with multiple friendship clubs. Our growing number of volunteers are geared toward reducing social isolation, loneliness an poverty. Bringing together 75 like-minded volunteers we enable communities to become vibrant providing help, support and guidance. Our advice service removes some of the barriers such as poverty, mobility, housing, health and care choices that enable people in later years to connect or reconnect to their local community.

Lastly, the private sector has a place too. We are looking at the holistic needs of those in later years and surrounding ourselves with organisations such as John Ford Group, Christies Care and other leading providers who support home-living. Our goal is living life better in later years.

We are very grateful for the support of John and his team as part of their giving to enable our new headquarters in Colchester to be refurbished at a reasonable cost enabling our growth. We can now develop new clubs and activities. Without John and the care of his skilled team we wouldn’t have been able to progress and through his support for us we are now able to open our doors to over 200 visitors a week who would otherwise have been lonely and socially isolated.