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?


Robert said...

In my line of work, I come across LOTS of spongers - people who tarnish the ideals behind our welfare system. Luckily, they are a small minority, and I suspect the number of sponger "carers" is an even smaller minority. Still makes me cross, though!

If your sister believes that this lady really shouldn't be living on her own, she should inform Social Services, who will call round and make their own assessment.

At least that lady has a sympathetic visitor in the form of your sister. Some folk aren't so lucky!

Mr Mans Wife said...

That's very true Robert - Mary is perhaps one of the lucky ones.

I sincerely hope you are right about sponger "carers" being a very small minority too. I'm not sure what sickens me more - the fact that some people wrongfully claim that money for luxuries when others depend on it to live because their caring role is full time and they can't work, or the fact that others will wrongfully assume that this lady and others like her are receiving care when in reality she is being neglected and her own children are willing to use her ailing health as a means to make money!

Thank you for the advice about contacting Social Services. I had already advised my sister to do this but it's good to have clarification that this is the way to go.

Thanks for your comment Robert.

Tilly said...

Totally agree that it is shameful/depressing/saddening that so many families appear unwilling to take responsibility for less able relatives. The excuse always seems to be "I have too much to do/earn a living/appointments I can't cancel" etc. They seem to forget that we all do - but if everyone does a little, then no-one carries too heavy a burden and those who are looked after, feel wanted rather than an encumbrance. I don't suppose it ever occurs to Mary's immediate family that if they find it too stressful to look after their mother/grandmother, then perhaps they could do something to help your sister while she cares for Mary? Sandwiches in the freezer - yikes! Only one step away from a cat food dispenser opening up at a set time each day!
I think we need to start again trying to teach our children that old fashioned adage of "Do as you would be done by". V old fashioned but it works as a rule.
Thank goodness for the kindness of people like your sister. Her kind nature is being exploited but there is some comfort in this - just recently, scientists found that there is more happiness in giving rather than taking. Just frustrating that the carer's allowance could not be diverted to your sister instead.

Mr Mans Wife said...

It's shocking isn't it? But sadly a lot of families are this way. My Mum always helped my Nan more than her siblings, even though my Mum lived further away and was a single parent!

Mary's family help my sister? I think my sister is an irritation to them because she's always telling them what Mary needs help with! I think my sister would feel uncomfortable claiming carers allowance unless she gave Mary 5 hours of care a day as required. I don't think she would feel guilty for cheating the government - I think she would feel she was cheating Mary.

I completely agree with you though - treat others as you would like to be treated. No wonder it's been called the golden rule. And there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Both of these statements are in the Bible! Not such a load of old nonesense as people think!