Let me tell you a story – it’s a bit long and does get complicated – so bear with me.
Mrs A was an only child – her parents Fred and Cynthia lived 50 miles away and Cynthia has type 2 diabetes which is very unstable. At present Fred tries to look after Cynthia but he is not the healthiest person in the world.
Mr B is also an only child – his parents Jack and Jill also live 30 miles away but are reasonably fit although a bit frail.
Mrs A and Mr B married and have 2 children – they live in a small 2 up and 1 down house in a small village with few amenities. They own a small car and both Mrs A and Mr B are employed in low paid jobs.
Do you have a picture of the family? Now it gets a bit complicated.
Jack and Jill divorce and both re-marry. Jack to Kate and Jill to William. Jack and Kate move into a small cottage with one bedroom 25 miles away. William and Jill stayed in the original house.
So now Mrs A and Mr B have 3 sets of parents.
Then the problems arise. Jack develops heart failure – a long term condition. Jill now has dementia with William struggling to cope and living in a house that is cold with steep stairs and is not on a bus route and remember that Cynthia has unstable type 2 diabetes which has become more unstable so has frequent trips to hospital.
So now Mr B and Mrs A have 3 parents who require care but all live in different directions – Fred and Cynthia 50 miles away north, Jill and William 30 miles south and Jack and Kate 25 miles west. The 2 children are now teenagers and require the usual parent taxi services for school and activities.
Are you still following this? This is not fantasy land – it is a picture of many families in the UK – what are called ‘The Sandwich Families’ with Mrs A and Mr B the jam in the middle. So why am I telling you all about the family?
Well – you are all aware that government policy for some years now has been around families taking more responsibility for the care of parents. Alistair Burt – Minister in Charge of Elderly Care says in future families will have to live together so younger members can provide care particularly as fewer and fewer services will be available or provided by local authorities. This is also backed up by Social Services saying or insisting that children must help with care of parents.
So my question is – if Mr. B and Mrs A who are both employed but earn just enough by a couple of pounds to be above the benefit level and who have 3 parents needing care – all living with partners who themselves are finding it difficult to cope. All living miles away in 3 different directions, 2 teenage children who need ferrying around to school and activities and they live in a 2 up 1 down house – who do they look after and how do they provide the care required by the various sets of parents and provide a home and care for their children? And importantly – Do parents actually want to live with their children and possibly grandchildren?
ANSWERS PLEASE ON A POSTCARD
The reasons for my story are to highlight several facts:-
- Families are no longer in the old formation
- New housing does not have a spare room to allow 1 set of parents to have their own reasonable sized bedsit or bedroom with shower and why should they not have a bit of quiet private space. This is also very relevant to a single parent
- If parents live some distance away – how are families supposed to carry out caring tasks or even just check on up to ensure all is OK apart from telephoning daily?
- Why can’t parents move closer/into the same borough as their children – downsize into a flat so children can pop in daily? Why are boroughs so averse to allowing re housing opportunities across boundaries which would free up family homes?
- There is rightly a lot of publicity and finance going into housing for young people as evidenced by the spending review but why not consider more housing for older people? This would also free up more family accommodation
- In design and building new homes – why not let the target markets i.e. the public of whatever age to input into the design. People know what they would like to live in and what they require in a home. In the main people are very realistic – e.g. storage space, bedrooms big enough for a wardrobe/cupboard etc. near transport routes, outdoor space and facilities
- Once again the government/financial watchdog are going in for ‘older people’ bashing – saying older people should sell/stop renting family homes and downsize into Retirement Housing (whatever and where ever that is) even if it is away from family. Friends and their community. Older people are now not only NHS bed blockers but house/home blockers
- Of course there are many people who would be happy to downsize or move to another borough or another part of the country – so why don’t they? Well apart from the points made earlier selling, buying and moving is complicated and inhibiting. Many people would be using the conventional way with estate agents, magazines etc. The costs of moving are more than just the cost of the accommodation with all the fees such as stamp duty which is now exorbitant especially in London.
- The most sensible suggestion I have seen is a ‘one off’ package for older people to move into their ‘retirement’ home – help with sourcing new homes, help with packing up – especially clearing lofts, help with notification of services, help with sourcing new GP and other services in the new area and most of all – financial advice and a ‘one off’ free stamp duty move. When you think about it – it makes absolute sense as it frees up a larger family home and if people move nearer family then the cost of caring is decreased for councils and NHS.
So again – I go back to my original story –how can families provide the care for parents as required by government if there is no support for families?
Just start by cutting the red tape – maybe devolution will help in moving boroughs – after all if there is free movement between EU countries – why not across English borough boundaries?
Your thoughts please – do you know families who are in this predicament?