Wednesday, April 24, 2024

GUEST POST In old age a shared past is rich and comforting

The Secret Support Worker discusses what older people in care homes need to thrive - and what they are given.

Well, gentle reader, I did it. I walked away from the most amazing and most magical (and most badly paid) of jobs.

I don’t really know how it happened, but for the last few months I have been in a different world, working in a care home remembering the Britain of the 1940s to the 1970s with a group of my most elderly fellow citizens. 

It was a bit like being Dominic Sandbrook but without the podcast and the Daily Mail rants. We walked back to happiness, we had never had it so good, we were so cheerful it kept us going and, most of all, we laughed in the face of dementia and we cocked a snook at the grim reaper.

The home is kind and warm, but with me gone it loses its last member of staff with any British heritage of any kind. It loses the Beatles, the rationing, the 1966 World Cup and the nostalgia which is a vital anchor for those with dementia.

If you have Alzheimer’s the short term is hard, but a shared past becomes ever more rich and comforting.

The retro noticeboard featuring the Grand National, D-Day, homemade lavender bags and silly snaps has been replaced with corporate photographic prints and a cheesy hotel lounge vibe. 

On the wall behind some of the frailest residents, the new slogan reads: It's a Good Day to be Happy.

Homes Under the Hammer flickers on to the omnipresent telly as I leave. What are they are all going to do all day now? 

The Secret Support Worker, a Liberal Democrat member, was paid £11 an hour and had a budget per activity session per resident of 3p. The home has an annual turnover of a million pounds and the proprietor a flash car with personalised number plates.


nigel hunter said...

I did the occupational stuff voluntary in the 90s after Uni. My brother in Law is now in a home with an Occupational worker who comes in once a week. I also notice the posh Mercedes that the boss has. It does imply that take the homes away from Council control ,employ non UK workers (little idea of UK history)and it becomes just another gravy chain for shareholders, bosses.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, thank you! I'd be very interested to read more from the Secret Support Worker.

Anonymous said...

Yes, more of this please! (Incidentally, these large corporate care home chains are not necessarily well run. The Southern Cross chain went spectacularly bankrupt about 15 years ago, and it had a Stock Exchange listing.)

tonyhill said...

I experienced a care home for 18 months when my parents-in-law were residents. Some very good, dedicated, members of staff, and some who were terrible. A manager who embezzled funds and vanished. And drugs being used to cosh residents. My father-in-law was killed by being given a drug that should never be administered to someone with Parkinsons. We has already complained to Social Services about his treatment: I submitted a list of 48 questions about the circumstances surrounding his death to Social Services, and they immediately gave the list to the management of the care home which enabled them to cover their backs. We gave up at that point because we were too traumatised by what had happened. It would be comforting to think that our experience was unusual, but I don't believe that it is.