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Care of the elderly: delivering dignity

Making decisions regarding the long term residential care of an older person is never easy. Those who have to make the decisions may face sleepless nights over concerns about the care different establishments can offer, balanced with other relevant considerations. Care isn’t just a question of a welcoming establishment and round-the-clock nursing attention.  It’s also about showing respect for older people when they are at their most vulnerable and needing support. Making care decisions is a daunting task and not one that the relatives, Welfare Attorneys, Welfare Guardians, or professional Welfare Managers responsible for those decisions take lightly.
It is against this background that we are delighted to see the recognition given to the importance of respect and compassion when caring for older people, in a draft report published on Wednesday (29 February 2012) by the Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People. The draft report, now out for consultation, includes in its recommendations that hospital and care home staff should be required to “take personal responsibility for putting the person receiving care first”, and “to challenge practices they believe are not in the best interests of the people in their care”. Amongst the ‘Delivering Dignity’ reports’ 20 recommendations it is also suggested that “hospitals should recruit staff to work with older people who have the compassionate values needed to provide dignified care as well as the clinical and technical skills”, and “should evaluate compassion as well as technical skills in their appraisals of staff performance”.
In Scotland we are probably on the front foot as regards ensuring appropriate care standards: after serious care issues resulted in the widely publicised closure of the Elsie Inglis Care Home in Edinburgh last year, measures were promptly introduced by Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon for the regular monitoring of care establishments by designated social workers, as well as by the Care Inspectorate.  But even with these additional safeguards, there is still a concern that occasionally people may ‘slip through the net’, as our Welfare Managers have discovered when assisting older clients.
The ‘Delivering Dignity’ report is directed initially at the system in England.  However the Commission, jointly chaired by the Local Government Association, the NHS Confederation and Age UK, states that they “believe that the key messages will be of value to practitioners in the other parts of the UK”. 
So perhaps once the public consultation period is over, and the Commission’s final report is published later this year, both older people themselves and those on whose shoulders the task of ensuring their care lies heavily, might find comfort in recognition and implementation of a social policy calling for a greater respect and compassion to be given to older people in care, in line with ensuring their dignity.
BBC News also published a feature which can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17195676.
For further information or guidance about caring for the elderly please contact our Client Welfare team on 0131 200 1200.