Caregivers struggle to find support for loved ones amid ‘huge’ understaffing in adult care | UK News
“There are days when I wake up and I feel like I can’t do this for a day anymore,” Dorothy says.
“Then I look at Melvin and force myself to get up because he needs to eat. He needs medicine and he needs a bath.”
Dorothy Cook, 65, and Melvin, 76, have been together for 48 years. Dorothy cares for her husband on her own – after two years of struggling to find a care package to meet Melvin’s complex needs.
Of the caregiver shortage, Dorothy says: “I think it’s off the scale, I think it’s huge. I think it’s never come back to pre-COVID.”
In fact, industry players point out that recruiting and retaining caregivers has never been more difficult.
With approximately 165,000 vacancies in the adult care sector in Englandthis week’s budget made it clear that the Government’s focus remains on the NHS.
So, in the meantime, Dorothy and countless other soldiers press on.
Dorothy proudly tells me that her husband is a former electrical engineer who helped design the prototype nose of Concorde.
She points to the bay window seat I’m sitting on as we talk – it was thoughtfully designed by Melvin who loved carpentry and painting.
But cerebral ataxia deprived Melvin of the body he knew. His walking, balance, muscles, swallowing and speech are all affected.
Melvin sits up in bed and Dorothy uses guest cards to help her communicate.
At first it is difficult to understand what he is saying. But with Dorothy’s patience and encouragement, Melvin slowly explains, “My legs don’t do what my mind tells them to.”
But the weight of responsibility that Melvin’s needs place on his wife is not lost on him.
He speaks again – and after a second time it becomes clear that he is telling Dorothy: “One day at a time.”
The words make Dorothy cry.
Wiping her eyes, she replies, “I didn’t expect that. You know, being a caregiver isn’t just about the physical challenge and the convenience. What people don’t realize no, it’s the emotional side.”
Dorothy explains how difficult it was to find caregivers to meet Melvin’s complex needs.
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She says: “There was a rotation of different comers. I would end up showing them what to do because I couldn’t leave someone and just say ‘he’s all yours’ so it’s broken down.
“There aren’t the resources and the care agencies are really struggling.”
Dorothy cooks Melvin’s meals; prepares and gives him his medication; supports him as he walks slowly with a frame and washes him and helps him in the bathroom.
She says, “Looking from the outside, people think ‘oh, they’re doing fine. They are doing very well. Dorothy is doing this with Melvin. She makes it look easy”. But I’m really crying inside saying ‘someone help me’.
“Caring for someone 24/7 has had a huge impact on my own mental and physical health over the past two years when I didn’t have a care package.
“I’m housebound by default because I don’t have caregivers. I can’t leave it.”
Wendy Brown, 73, understands all too well the emotional toll that caring for a loved one can take.
Wendy and her family have tried to care for her 97-year-old stepfather Arthur as best they can. But in the end, they couldn’t cope.
“If there was something I didn’t do and he died, how could I live with myself,” she says through tears.
Wendy says she struggled for a long time to find caregivers. But believes months without help led to repeated medical emergencies for Arthur and three hospital stays.
She says Arthur was discharged from the hospital with a catheter that neither he nor she knew how to empty.
“It was the catheter removal and the infections and damage it caused that made it as bad as it is.”
Wendy recalls a conversation she says she had with hospital staff during one of Arthur’s stints in the hospital.
“They said ‘he wasn’t really conscious and couldn’t speak to anyone’ and I went one day and the doctor said they were preparing him for discharge.
“I said what do you mean by discharge? Where are you going to send him back? You can’t send him home. How do you think he’s going to do?
“I was so angry my daughter had to pick me up because I couldn’t drive the car. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. It didn’t matter what you said, they weren’t listening not.”
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The latest figures from Skills For Care, an organization which monitors and estimates vacancies in adult social care, suggest that 10.9% of social care jobs in England are unfilled.
This totals 165,000 vacancies in the sector, including carer jobs.
Over the past year, vacancy rates have been the highest since records began a decade ago.
The lowest levels of recruitment are for home care – that is, carers who work in people’s homes. There are more than 76,000 unfilled home help positions.
In 2019, the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We will fix the social care crisis once and for all.’
But activists say that was not enough.
Professor Martin Green is the chief executive of Care England, a charity that represents independent adult social care providers.
He said: “I have to say I’m sick of hearing about the NHS and I’m sick of hearing about politicians who seem to think it sits in a silo unrelated to all the other stuff. of the system, including how well you support people in communities so they don’t go into crisis and need the NHS.
“The care sector has told successive governments how to tackle the problem and talked about the need for a long-term approach to funding and manpower.”
The government insists it ‘backs’ social care despite criticism that there was no mention of the sector in this week’s budget.
Last autumn the government pledged what it called a “record” £7.5billion funding for social care over the next two years.