Over tea and muffins, I was almost convinced of the case for tighter apron strings. Oh, crumbs!
Last week was a significant one for me because I nearly changed my mind about something. And who ever does that? I didn’t change my mind (nobody ever does, about anything) but I did have – I think – a small insight. I won’t say “epiphany”. Not least because I find it hard to pronounce. But I will say insight.
It came about over a cup of tea with a friend, whom I won’t name for fear that people will find her on Twitter and shout at her. Let’s just call her @elspeth157. I’m joking. We’ll call her Janet.
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.
The majority of workers on low pay or zero-hour contracts are women, which adds to the stress when they experience long-term health issues
When Sue Heller was diagnosed with multiple-sclerosis (MS) at the age of 33, she knew that her employer’s support was vital. She was offered a higher-paid job a few years ago, but she turned it down: “When I asked what would happen if my health deteriorated, they couldn’t make any guarantees. At that point I realised I was better off where I was, even at a lower wage.”
Women in the UK are three times more likely to get MS – often during their 20s and 30s, when most are navigating the early stages of their career. There are many chronic illnesses, like heart disease, that affect men more often than women: but a range of additional factors come into play with regards to women’s health problems and the workplace.
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Polly Clark believes that, for too many women, the shock of childbirth and its aftermath is akin to experiencing war, leaving them adrift, and absent in a profound way – but no one notices
I once caught a glimpse of my medical records moving from trolley to receptionist’s desk at the GP. Perhaps they have long been computerised, but then they were housed in a large, weary-looking file. They had the heft of a first draft of a novel, a comprehensive and messy catalogue of pains and breaks, results and dead ends and cures. They were nothing unusual for a woman my age. One thing not in there, though, was any reference to or diagnosis of the dominant ill of our time: depression. Nor anxiety, insomnia, or any mental struggle whatsoever. No antidepressant has passed my lips; I have troubled only one counsellor briefly – when my father died.
However, I know for sure that, after the birth of my daughter and for a few years after, I was not in the world as I knew it previously.
Related: It costs £83 to treat postnatal depression. So why must so many women suffer? | Vonny Moyes