Jersey’s focus has been on ‘putting children first’ recently, but as the pandemic has shown the other end of the age spectrum should also be a priority for us as a society. The publicised challenges faced by care homes and care workers over the last two years have shone a much-needed light on a forgotten sector that has for years struggled to get its voice heard and needs met by Governments across Britain.
Early on in the pandemic Jersey care homes raised ‘grave concerns’ about the availability of the right PPE for their staff and the conflicting and confusing advice they were being given. In April 2020, only care workers with symptoms of COVID-19 and the first one to three residents showing symptoms were being tested in care homes. Jersey GPs have criticised the way elderly patients were returned to residential care untested, which ‘led to rapid spread’ within nursing homes and a ‘consequent high proportion of deaths’.
This generation do not tend to complain, or campaign, or ‘make a fuss’ – their voices are not loud due to a number of factors including digital illiteracy, a culture of ‘getting on with it’ and fear of reprisals if they were to complain. A silent minority is easy to overlook.
The over 75s are the largest group of community care service users, a group that is set to increase in the coming years. The Government’s website expects ‘significant additional demand from the rise in numbers of people over 85’. We need to be acting now to ensure Jersey can recruit the care workers it needs to serve this growing population, spending on upgrading physical facilities to care for this generation and implementing ways that enable older people to stay in their own home longer.
With the building of the new hospital on the Overdale site where the Memory Clinic is based those patients with dementia who regularly visit the clinic will have to learn a new route to reach their appointments, which may not be straight forward if, instead of one bus, they have to take two to get to Les Quennevais. In addition, the closure of The Poplars means their clients will have to be absorbed by The Hollies and Sandybrook. The specialist care needed for clients with dementia is different from the care needed for elderly clients without dementia. Mixing the two types of need is very challenging for staff and does not benefit either group of clients. Yet again, it would seem that the silent minority have been overlooked.
We would like to see manifestos tackle the issue of caring for an aging population and a commitment to make the older generation as prominent in Government’s strategic thinking as the young.