The Office for National Statistics recently reported that 43,900 excess winter deaths occurred among over 65s this winter – many of which were entirely preventable. This is double that of 2013/14, and throws into sharp relief the calamitous effects the winter months can have on the nation’s elderly population. The fact this figure is rising so dramatically is totally unacceptable in an advanced country like the UK, and represents a significant failure on the part of policymakers to tackle underlying issues.
As Age UK Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams states, cold homes, high energy prices and a lack of support combine to create a ‘toxic situation’ for the elderly which is compounded by the effects of loneliness. Furthermore, gas and electricity companies are doing little to alleviate the elderly’s winter troubles. Prices remain high, and service providers’ over-reliance on online support systems have recently been shown to leave many of the elderly population without access to vital support, also contributing to illness.
While residential care could provide a solution to this issue, care homes are expensive at over £29,000 per year, and leave many residents without independence. Family care is another option but many find the strain of caring for a family member while simultaneously pursuing a career an impossible task.
An alternative exists, however, in professional home care. Home care provides a cheaper option to residential care while also providing the elderly with important companionship and allowing greater independence. With an ever-increasing elderly population and a deficit in the number of trained social carers active in the UK, more needs to be done to ensure that the sector is capable of meeting the population’s needs.
Coupled with innovative approaches to social care, home care can play a crucial role in meeting the growing care needs of modern Britain. It is therefore encouraging to see the launch of projects like ‘Care City’, which opens this month. Care City seeks to transform and modernise the way care and services are provided, improving life for the elderly and for the carer. Innovations include the Canary, a device that family members can use to track relative’s movements meaning they don’t have to leave work to check on them.
The success of Care City has yet to be tested but, with its strong ethos and focus on patient welfare, may just serve as a blueprint for future attempts to produce an overall approach to social care for the elderly.