Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Carers Who Don’t Care

I spoke to my sister tonight. She cleans for a lady in her 90’s who suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives alone. We’ll call her Mary.

It was Mary’s daughter and son in law who employed my sister to clean for her. They are in their 70’s, and so you might consider them to be exempt from caring for Mary; and yet they don’t consider themselves exempt from claiming Carers Allowance for the supposed care they provide. They are obviously retired yet quite sprightly by all accounts, allowing them the time and energy to skip off on holiday several times a year. I expect managing Mary’s finances helps in this regard also.

My sister has grown quite attached to Mary. It’s just a shame that her family doesn’t feel the same way. The Grandson, now in his 40’s, admitted that his Mum and Dad are just waiting for Mary to “pop off”, but he doesn’t appear to have made any effort to improve Mary’s level of care himself. In fact, it was my sister who suggested that they organise meals on wheels for Mary at lunch time, as she is incapable of preparing a meal for herself. Sadly, without someone to supervise her, she still doesn’t eat the meals that are brought in for her. She really does need a lot of support in many ways.

But wait a minute; her daughter and son in law receive £48.65 a week for caring for Mary for 35 hours a week, don’t they? That’s 5 hours care a day. Surely they are there to encourage her to eat her meals? Think again. They spend 45 minutes with her each day at tea time, during which time they make her a sandwich and a cup of tea, and hang around long enough to make sure she has eaten it. The rest of the time she is alone. They don’t seem concerned that that is probably the only thing she has eaten all day. You’d think that they would want to set an example for their own children of how to show love, care, and respect for aging parents, seeing as they could be dependant on care for themselves in the not too distant future.

They have already made a weeks worth of sandwiches and put them in the freezer, ready for my sister to thaw out each day for Mary’s tea while they are away. My sister has other plans; as soon as they have gone she intends to bin the whole lot and make fresh sandwiches each day for Mary, with fresh bread and fresh fillings. Is she worth anything less?

Mary has said she doesn’t want to live alone, but her daughter and son in law say that she refuses to go into a home. Thinking that money is probably the real issue, my sister has looked up the address and telephone number of a council funded care home and given it to the Grandson – my sister's not backwards about coming forwards! Of course, if Mary did move into a care home, her daughter and son in law would lose their £48.65 a week for “caring” for her, and they could probably say goodbye to some of their holidays.

How are people supposed to take the needs of struggling carers seriously when there are those who con the system in this way?