We­mus­tremain a bea­con of care

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - COM­MU­NITY HE­LEN SIM­MONS

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

PHOTO: YOUTUBE/ NIGHTIN­GALE HAM­MER­SON

Vis­it­ing at Nightin­gale Ham­mer­son

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