She’s been awake since sunrise. Waiting.
Until the carer arrives, she’s trapped in her bed and her urine-soaked incontinence pads.
The pretty special stranger who comes to her aid that morning makes her day start with a smile - plus a strip-wash and breakfast. The council carer gently eases her out of her bed, into her clothes and the chair in front on the telly. Then the house is empty of all but her again. The uniformed saint is gone. The visit, as ever, was fleeting. But every second counted, as it will for the next person on the home help’s early morning list. And the next.
Time is so tight during some home visits that elderly and disabled people get just 15 minutes of care three times a day. They are forced to choose between having a cup of tea or being helped to go to the toilet, claims leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
Esther Rantzen, who recently launched the Silver Line, a phone support for vulnerable elderly people, is backing the charity’s call for an end to the flying visits that treat the most fragile and lonely members of our society ‘like products on a conveyor belt’.
She’s right. It’s dangerous. It’s wrong. But severe government cutbacks means councils are cash-strapped. And we’re living longer- a workforce already spread as thinly as a hard-up pensioner’s margarine on toast has ever-more elderly people to care for.
We who are strong and healthy have to demand better. More money has to go into looking after the vulnerable. And while we’re at it, let’s holler about the pittance home helps are paid. Many get the minimum wage for what is literally a back-breaking job. That’s about £1.57 per 15-minute house call. Others working for unscrupulous agencies get less; travel between calls isn’t refunded. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.