Retroladytyping …

Care is not a lifestyle choice

(Updated 2 days after my original post, due to the Tory party reconsidering – slightly)

I am frustrated and extremely angry.

The cause of this is the Tory Party Manifesto, together with a headline in the Tory Press, i.e.  “You won’t need to sell your home to pay for care.”  Oh yes, you will … eventually, if it’s worth more than £100,000.  £100,000 .  On the face of it, that’s a lot of money to most people.  However, it doesn’t buy much in the way of housing nowadays, does it?  The average 3 bed semi costs more than that.  Actually ANY decent 3 bed semi costs more than that.  They might argue that charges will only be paid on any amount over that value, but how can that be realised without actually selling that home?  .

Additionally, despite that increased ‘allowance’, that charge is also going to be levied for care in that home.  Yep, that 15 minute quick call, which achieves almost nothing, is going to have to be paid for by the recipient and/or their family.   So, as well as being charged for having an illness which necessitates living in a Nursing Home, more able, but still needing care, people will be charged for that care in their own home.  This has all been hidden by the provision that, if a spouse is living in that home, the home will not need to be sold, but a charge will be levied when both have either died or both ‘chosen’ to live in a care home.  That situation is not new – despite those headlines in the Mail last week.

My parents both had dementia, my mother so severely that she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for 7 months, with my father remaining at home.  Her care then, which was in an NHS hospital based secure  Unit was funded, but my father was unable to get  funded care at home which met his needs, fifteen minutes once a day not being enough, unsurprisingly.  So, he paid for it privately, and reluctantly.  He was lucky.  He could afford it.  He had worked all his life, never claimed benefits and, while I hesitate to use this argument, had  fought in a bloody War for this country.   Now he needed to get something back and it just wasn’t there.

When he eventually needed to go into a Nursing Home, a charge was levied against their home until we could sell it.  It was a very modest home, worth only £135,000, but was well maintained, well loved and  the source of great pride, that they had ‘something to leave behind.’   However, even under the Tories proposals to charge if a house is worth more than £100,000, it would have to have been sold, as it was,  to fund his care, both while in that home and later in the Nursing Home where he ended his days.

He has now died, thankfully never fully understanding how he had been let down by the system.  My mother too has died and was, sadly, too unwell to ever appreciate that her home, and their investment in it,  had been taxed to fund my father’s care, even though, due to the severity of her condition and her family putting up a fight, her care was funded.  A mixed blessing indeed.

My mother, as I said, was severely ill and so her care was funded, after we had argued against the original decision on the grounds that if she was not deserving of full-time funded care,  then how ill did someone need to be before that became the case.   Were we ‘lucky’ that her care was funded?  Clearly not.  No-one would choose to see a loved one  in turns distraught or catatonic and needing 24 hour specialist medical care.  We were, however, grateful in a financial way.  That is wrong.  However, if she had been less ill, the cost of her care which amounted to thousands of pounds during the 2 further years she lived, would have had to come out of the value of their home, which they had saved for, worked hard for, and again, never claimed benefits.  Thankfully (and I am aware of the irony of that word) she never knew.

Is it right that a situation will exist where a person will be increasingly taxed for providing for their children after their death, needing Care or needing to live in a Care Home, albeit disguised under the headlines as generosity because the Tories propose raising the asset limit?  Is it right that the Tory press have headlined that homes “won’t need to be sold”.  Is it right that the implication is that the right of a spouse to remain in that home, so not forcing a sale, is new?  It’s not.  That’s been the case for a long time.  What has changed is that the allowance has gone up, but set against that, a charge will be made for home care, necessitating in all but a few cases where a house is worth less than £100,000, the eventual sale of a family home.

Needing a second home in the form of a Nursing Home is NOT a lifestyle choice.  Dementia and other issues associated with old age are illnesses.  Their treatment should therefore be funded under the National Insurance scheme.  That is what insurance is for.  If the risk increases, as it has with an increasingly elderly population and better diagnosis, the insurance contributions should be increased accordingly.  As with home insurance, if that means subsidising others who need support, then so be it.  That’s democracy and a caring welfare state in action.  From the cradle to the grave, even if that grave is later than it was when the welfare state was first set up.

Owning a second home, and being able to spend time in that second home healthily and independently is, however,  a lifestyle choice to many of those who seek to penalise those who have few such choices.

Update – 2 days later …    I’ve just heard on today’s news that Theresa May has amended her original points. 

It looks like she plans to cap care costs, having taken account of the feelings of the electorate.  Now there’s a thing; nothing to do with realising that the electorate aren’t going to take this lying down and she was in danger of losing votes. 

However she amends her plans though, my point  is the same. Dementia is an illness like any other illness, and the necessary care shouldn’t be paid for up-front.  National Insurance is just that – insurance.  We hope we won’t need it, but we don’t mind paying (even a bit more) to make sure we are covered.  The NHS was set up to be free at the point of delivery and the Tories are gradually moving away from that, thinking we won’t notice.   We will and we already have.  Don’t take us for granted.  You may get a shock.

Again today, I heard a Tory spokesman say that  “People should be content if they inherit £100,000.” Well, yes.  Point taken, except that, at the risk of being accused of generalisation, I wonder how many Tory MPs leave or have inherited £100,000 and been content with that.  My parents had three children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  They bought their house (under Mrs Thatcher’s sell-off of council houses scheme – ironically) with the sole aim of having “something to leave you all.”  They took pride in that.

 However, my argument is still, and will remain, that NO up-front charge should be made to people who are in need of healthcare, exactly as it says on the NHS website:

“The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay”

 Perhaps the powers that seek to be need to re-read that, in case they feel the need to make further changes.  I hope they do, but somehow I doubt it. 

There are and will continue to be many, many people in the same situation as my parents.  They will be so ill with dementia, which contrary to Tory thinking,  IS an illness, not just a consequence of old-age, that they need full-time care.  Their dreams of leaving something (more than £100,000 which will be ‘allowed’) to their descendants will be destroyed.  These proposals are no more or less than a tax on dementia.  As a friend commented on my FB page today, we MUST stop it.


Taking a break …

… from  “The Facebook News Feed… oh that black hole of endless EVERYTHING”

Just recently I found myself becoming increasingly stressed without any reasonable cause.  Nothing much had changed.  Spring had sprung.  There were holidays and breaks to look forward to.  No pressure of work.  No pressure of any kind that I could see, and yet, and yet … something was happening.  My eyes felt as if I needed to take them out and rinse them under the tap, my back ached, my head ached, but mostly I was worried about a ‘something’ which I couldn’t quantify or  describe.   There was always a feeling of ‘something’ being wrong, ‘something’ which needed to be checked – just in case.

Wandering in a sleepy daze downstairs every morning, I caught my hand going out to that switch in the hall.  That one.  The one which triggers a flashing green light.  The box of connectivity.    I wasn’t switching it on with any real purpose in mind – no imminent need to email, shop or check the news or the weather.  As I opened up the laptop, I realised I was automatically moving the mouse to Facebook.  Why?

Why indeed?  Because I wanted to check if anything was happening.  Of course something was happening.  Something always is.  I can honestly say that I do know, in real life, most of my Facebook friends,  we have a common interest, or a shared educational or employment history.  Yes, I’m justifying myself.  But I felt I needed to check on their doings before I’d even staggered into the kitchen to put the kettle on for a caffeine hit, as well as frequent checks throughout the day.    Did I really need to  keep checking, googling and clicking on links until I developed a crick in my neck, followed by a headache, then a stress-inducing worry session brought about by information overload?  I did.  After all ‘something’ may have happened overnight, or may happen just as I log off … and I wouldn’t know about it. 

So what.

Yesterday I found myself massively over-reacting to a minor mishap in the real world (don’t ask – to do with misunderstandings and the expectation that the person closest to me can actually read my mind and knows what I am really saying … yes, that kind of misunderstanding, probably familiar to most long-married people.)

On reflection, when I had calmed down, I realised that what I was feeling  was brain overload.  I felt teary, tired, emotional and mentally exhausted for no good reason.  On reflection I realised that this kind of thing had been happening far too frequently lately. I’d been blaming others, the weather, being busy, the political situation – anything really.     I then found this website:

Please read it.  It is very enlightening.  There is so much information out there, most of which we don’t need or want to know.  It’s an endless pit of ‘stuff’ which I fell into every day and was in danger of becoming suffocated by.

That website describes Facebook as “a black hole of ENDLESS EVERYTHING” – yes, that’s exactly right.  Of course, Facebook has its positive uses:  keeping in touch with past friends whose paths have taken them to far-flung places, discussion groups with like-minded people, photographs – especially of weddings and new babies.  Using the Chat facility to arrange reunions, sharing news of personal events. Who can complain about those?

However, it’s the other side of those positives which I think had been  affecting me – the constant need to check ‘just-in-case’ somewhere within that endless everything there was that vital something which I really, really needed to know.  If that wasn’t to be the case, then I would share something about my own life – most of it just trivia to pour into that black hole of endless everything.

The truth is that everyone who might need to share something with me which I really, really needed to know, has my phone number, email, address or all three.  Similarly, if I need to tell someone about my day, I can telephone them, see them, or even … don’t tell them, because they don’t really need to know.  I don’t live on a remote island away from human contact.  My automatic reaching out to that box of connectivity in the hallway and the automatic moving of the mouse to the Facebook icon needed to stop.  So it did … yesterday.  I am taking a break.  Time will tell for how long.

What shall I do instead?  Well, I plan to take more time to do real things properly, even if those real things are routine or I could drink my coffee while it’s hot,  rather than letting it get cold while I am in the virtual world.  That’s about it:  just taking time.

Of course, it  may be that Facebook isn’t the reason why I’ve been so stressed.   It may be “others, the weather, being busy, the political situation.”  Time will tell.

At the moment, I am sorely tempted to just take a quick peek.  Shall I?  I may be missing out on something vital;  I may need to react to something I read;  I may need to get involved in a discussion or, more likely, it will be just information to pour into my overloaded brain.  So, I won’t.  I think.  Maybe.


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