Wemustremain a beacon of care
WHERE ARE you going to live out the end your life?” This isn’t really a topic that many of us would like to discuss at dinner parties or social functions but it should be an issue that we are all thinking about.
Caring for a loved one can be extremely difficult. Indeed, for people caring for those with dementia or other illnesses or disabilities, the challenges can be considerable, and it is not uncommon to hear that the pressures coping cause more than a few sleepless nights. Then there are the difficult decisions to be made about where family members will receive the comfort and care that they need. The decision to place a loved one in a care home can be one of the hardest any family has to make.
Many baulk at the idea of putting a family member into a care home. For some, the very mention of the phrase ‘‘care home’’ conjures up a host of grim images and anecdotes. The reality, of course, is very different. Most care homes help older people to have a better quality of life and ensure that they are part of a strong community where they can receive quality care and medical and emotional support. Living in a care home is about just that, living your life, not about where you are going to end it.
As the baby boomers get older and incredible medical advancements allow us to live much longer, it is time to re-evaluate our health-care systems and how families care for their loved ones. Families should be thinking about what they want for their loved ones and not have to worry about how this will be funded — the local authorities should be providing enough funding for this but the reality is that what they provide is nowhere near enough.
Over the course of my career working in the care sector, the landscape has changed. Older people living in care homes used to be relatively active and had simply reached a time in their lives where they needed help with tasks such as cooking and cleaning.
Over the years, the situation has changed dramatically which means that our care provisions have also had to adapt to changing needs. The average admission age of residents at Nightingale Hammerson, where I am Chief Executive, has risen to 90 and we have more centenarians living in our care homes than ever. The older you are, the more susceptible you are to dementia, the more advanced the symptoms are, and the more dependent you become on other people.
People are coming into care homes at a much later stage in life and need much higher levels of care than have ever been implemented previously.
As a care home charity for the Jewish community that runs three homes, our hands are tied by what funding we receive and our first priority must be providing excellent care to our residents. For residents living in care homes in the Jewish community, there are additional costs which are essential to enhance our resident’s well-being. For example, it is important for us to be able to provide kosher catering.
Being able to fundraise to bridge the gap between the local authority funding and the actual cost of care we provide is imperative to ensure that our homes can continue to deliver care at such a high level.
At Nightingale Hammerson we actively involve the community in our fundraising efforts so that we can be the exemplar of best practice in care in our field. This is why we host fundraising events such as golf tournaments, theatre performances as well as our biennial dinners, the latest of which takes place next week at the Guildhall. This is why support from the community is key to the running of our care homes. We have a network of 250 volunteers, young and old, who give their time to ensure our homes can continue to provide the high quality level of care that we strive to provide for our residents. One of our residents, Bea Harrison, who celebrated her 100th birthday a couple of weeks ago, volunteered at Nightingale House for more than 20 years before she came and lived here.
Ultimately, we are a charity which exists to care for older Jewish people. We rely on the community’s understanding that, together, we need to safeguard the long-term future of our many wonderful care homes — which are in many respects, a beacon within the care sector. Helen Simmons is chief executive of Nightingale Hammerson
Visiting at Nightingale Hammerson