Party’s manifesto plans will change in wake of election, with possible shifts in stance on Brexit, grammar schools and social care
The first Queen’s speech of the new parliament will be nothing like as ambitious as Theresa May had hoped, given the Conservative party’s lack of an overall majority and the need to rely on the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland to pass legislation. Only a handful of key policies are likely to survive:
Related: Tom Watson asks May: did Murdoch request Gove’s return to cabinet?
Related: Q&A: how will the UK election result affect Brexit talks?
Related: Can party politics be set aside to save social care? | Paul Burstow
The Tories betray wilful ignorance in refusing to acknowledge that some adults need support all their lives – asking them to pay care costs is wrong
Much has been said about the Conservative manifesto pledges on social care and Theresa May’s subsequent U-turn, but one issue that has so far escaped scrutiny is the Tories’ strange assumption that social care is all about older people. This is despite the fact that around a third of those who need social care services are of working age [pdf].
Social care affects all adults who need support because of a disability or long-term health condition. This might include a learning disability, a physical disability or severe and enduring mental ill-health. The failure of the Conservative manifesto to acknowledge any of this gives the impression of a party that is wilfully ignorant of the nature of adult social care and its beneficiaries.
Related: The ‘dementia tax’ mess shows how little May thinks of disabled people | Frances Ryan
Related: Forget money – we need to rethink what social care should look like
Older people deserve respect and relief from the pressures and fears of declining physical and mental powers, say our readers
I have great respect for Simon Jenkins – he often cuts through the codswallop that often poses as journalism today. Unfortunately, he falls into the trap of Conservative thinking on social care (We all want to live longer, but someone must pay, 1 June). It does seem reasonable that those who have built up assets in their lifetimes should fund their own social care in old age, but this misses the whole point of a progressive system of taxation. Illness, frailty, misfortune can happen to anyone, rich or poor. It’s true the better off tend to live longer, with better health, but that does not mean that individuals cannot be struck down with early-onset dementia, or another devastating condition. Why should those families suffer more than other families whose progenitors were fortunate enough to enjoy perfect health? Progressive taxation, either on wealth or on income, spreads the risk and ensures that the rich and not-quite-so-rich pay their fair share towards the collective health of the nation. An inheritance tax too, properly graduated, should be part of the taxation mix, funding excellent state care for wealthy and poor alike, whatever their individual circumstances.
• Simon Jenkins is right, someone has to pay. But the need for care is a lottery and it falls unfairly on the 10% of those families whose relatives develop dementia, sometimes before they are even considered old. My relative developed Lewy body dementia at the age of 58. If he’d had cancer, he would have been cared for, but his family had to contribute to his nursing home care – after 12 years of his wife providing 24-hour care for free, with a devastating effect on her own life and freedom. Jenkins’s reference to past family situations belies the fact that women were the carers and they are now expected to work outside the home. The amount needed to provide care nationally is not so great in a rich country that we can’t all contribute to care for the sick and vulnerable, whatever their family wealth, just as we do for sick children.
I can refer people to mental health services and social care but they are overloaded and don’t provide much help
Recently a patient brought home to me how inadequate the help I can provide my elderly patients as a GP can be. Among more than 50 phone calls I fielded one day as one of the GPs dealing with urgent requests, there were two from a patient in her 80s who is the main carer for her husband who has dementia. She also has health issues and he is unaware of the problems they face. The receptionist learned far more about the difficulties they were having from the woman’s phone calls to the surgery and from observing them in the waiting room, than I did from my snatched telephone conversations and the scrawled note left for me. I found out later that the only way she could get to the surgery to bring the sample I requested was by locking her husband in the car outside. I knew that things were difficult, but this was a new low.
Over the last year I have been increasingly involved in the care of a man who is in his 80s and moved into my practice area to be nearer to his family. He enjoys telling me about his past when he gets the opportunity and I recall how his eyes sparkled as he told me that adopting his daughter was the best decision he and his late wife ever made. He knows his dementia is worsening and was the one who recognised the initial symptoms, well before these signs were noticed by others around him. He looks crestfallen as he recounts to me how he sees the frustration and sorrow in his daughter’s eyes when he asks the same question another time. He is annoyed by his failing health and memory and feels he is a burden to those around him. At times he is too proud to ask for help.
With millions of older people living in isolation, what is being done to help?
A weekly phone call or visit from a volunteer are among the solutions to help ease the loneliness epidemic affecting 1.2 million older people in England, according to campaigners.
Age UK, says that 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely and that this has an adverse impact on mental health, and the challenge will increase as our population ages. In the next 20 years, England’s over-85 population is set to rise from nearly
1.3 million people to just under 2.8 million.
Small community organisations and social enterprises could form an efficient, cost-effective support system for adults
An unexpected effect of cuts to council budgets, and the ensuing crisis in support services for adults and older people, is that the public is starting to understand for the first time what social care for adults actually is. The challenge now is for us to imagine what it could be.
In March, the government announced a green paper in response to the overwhelming evidence that the way we support older and disabled people is neither working nor affordable. Fewer people are getting support, care providers are leaving the sector and handing back contracts to councils, and hospitals are filling up with older people who have no medical reason to be there.
Related: Social care green paper is an opportunity too important to be missed | Peter Beresford
Related: How we can start a social care revolution in seven easy steps | Katie Johnston
A new study shows how strenuous mental and physical exercise keeps your brain firing on all cylinders
When it comes to retirement, experts recommend that everyone do some hard thinking. By this, they mean you should plan your finances responsibly, consider carefully where to live, and decide what colour beach chair to sit in all day as you sip strawberry daiquiris in the sun. But there’s another reason to think hard about these details: hard thinking by itself – a strenuous mental workout – is good for your ageing brain.
My collaborators and I at Massachusetts General hospital and Northeastern University in Boston study people over 65 who have incredible memories for their age, on a par with healthy 25-year-olds. Scientists call them “superagers” (a term coined by neurologist Marsel Mesulam at Northwestern University in Chicago). While nobody knows exactly why some people are superagers, we believe that one common factor is that they engage in demanding mental exercise. They continually challenge themselves to learn new things outside of their comfort zone.
Related: A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ – podcast
Grit is the ability to use your unpleasant feelings as fuel, rather than as a reason to apply the brakes
SA opposition leader says if Leesa Vlahos doesn’t resign she must be sacked after revelation of dementia patient abuse
Pressure is growing on South Australia’s mental health minister to quit over a damning report on the standard of care at a state-run nursing home for dementia patients.
The opposition leader, Steven Marshall, says Leesa Vlahos must go and if she refuses to resign the premier, Jay Weatherill, must sack her.
Related: Stroke and dementia risk linked to artificial sweeteners, study suggests
Andrew Dilnot says current adult social care system is ‘most pernicious means-test’ in the British welfare state
Andrew Dilnot, who carried out the government review into the funding for care and support in England, has condemned Britain’s social care system as “the most pernicious means-test in the whole of the British welfare state” and called for a new tax to fund adult social care for everyone who needs it.
The chair of the Dilnot commission on funding of care and support said a tax was needed to provide lifelong adult social care that was not means-tested.
Related: ‘We all like to feel special’: hairdressers style a revolution in care homes
In public I am in the way, in private I screw up the logistics of life, my mind becoming my enemy
“Never again, brave glorious morning.” Elizabeth had been out of sorts of late and offered lines from one of her favourite poets to explain it. “What’s wrong, dear?” asked Dottie, the ex-librarian.
“Nothing in particular,” Elizabeth said slowly, “just a sort of encircling gloom.”
Novelist who began writing to relieve the stress of her psychiatry job says literary success will not stop her listening to ‘real voices’ in hospital
A bestselling debut novelist who wrote her book in a hospital car park as stress release from her job as a psychiatrist is to return to the NHS. Her decision comes despite a £300,000 deal for her second book and a contract for two more novels.
Joanna Cannon, whose first book The Trouble With Goats and Sheep has now sold more than 100,000 copies in paperback in the UK and has been optioned for film by the makers of the Amy Winehouse documentary Amy, said she was returning to the health service because she missed her patients.
As we live longer, the numbers of people needing care is also soaring. So what help can those trying to access a creaking, cash-starved system expect?
When I was 16, I spent two months in Italy with my maternal grandparents – then both 88. My grandmother had fallen over some months previously and was bedridden, but my grandfather was still active, physically and mentally; we would regularly play Scopa – an Italian card game – together. His memory rendered him unbeatable.
The family would take it in turns to attend to my grandmother; the more senior adults doing the more serious jobs such as cleaning her, with me doing the softer jobs: combing her hair, giving her a manicure, applying lip salve. When she was very sick, my young cousins and I took it in turns to do the nights. The community nurse, Sabino, visited daily, taking coffee with us in between administering medications. Thirty years later, we are still friends with him. Both grandparents died aged 89, cared for almost exclusively at home (at the very end, my grandfather went to hospital) and by the family.
Related: Paying for care at home: how to negotiate the minefield
Get cancer and your care is paid for. Get dementia and it’s a different story
There are now more than nine million carers in England looking after family members
Related: English social care system for elderly facing ‘complete collapse’
Law Commission study, laid before parliament, reveals growing strain on already overburdened care system
Tens of thousands of vulnerable people with dementia and learning disabilities are being detained unlawfully in hospitals and care homes across Britain, the Law Commission has said.
Replacing the “administrative and bureaucratic nightmare” system of deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) would speed up checks and allow care workers to concentrate on those most at risk, the legal study recommends.