Honestly, we hardly need more debate on how to ensure good quality care for older people with conditions such as dementia. Our ageing population represents a demographic time bomb and yet we have hardly progressed in protecting people’s best interests. Why don’t we ensure that those who are unable to speak for themselves can be heard?
People need an individual voice to ensure their personal needs are respected, that considers all the decisions that relate to their lives; and a collective high-profile voice to fight their corner with the big organisations, like government, regulators and health and social care providers. Advocacy enables older people’s voices to be heard by those who make decisions affecting their everyday lives.
This is something that many older people simply do not have. As Kath Parson CE of independent advocacy charity OPAAL (of which I am a member) says in The Guardian, “This situation is not restricted to the frail and the vulnerable. Thousands of elderly people who have led active lives find themselves mute in the face of complex health and social care systems that leave them stunned by their very complexity.”
For a variety of reasons, most older people are unable to complain or express a view on the type and nature of care they need or want to receive. Worst of all perhaps, most are unable to influence the quality of service they have every right to expect or how or where to lodge complaints, if they have any.
Independent advocacy is a really good idea. It offers a voice and hope for the future for older people. However, it is not well understood (even by professionals in the health and social care sector). Ms Parson adds that this is the case, “despite legislation which put in place a right to independent advocacy for those who lack capacity to make certain decisions or who have mental health issues”.
Why shouldn’t older people living with dementia, particularly those living in care receive the services that they need and would like and have a voice to express this?
The dementia strategy, revised under this government, focuses on four elements, one of which is living well with dementia in care homes. The document concludes that "by 2015 every person with dementia will be able to say: 'I get the treatment and support which are best for my dementia and my life, I know what I can do to help myself and who else can help me. My community is working to help me live well with dementia.'"
Ms Parson is so right when she says that this is an enormously ambitious goal and unlikely to be reached unless older people are independently supported to obtain the treatment and services they need and have a right to expect. Ironically, the Data Protection Act actually serves to disadvantage the very old in hospitals, as I discovered with Daisy earlier this year - see my blog here
But then, like I often say, if we think we can afford to be complacent, just wait until the Baby-boomers come along…Source: The Guardian, OPAAL