Butlers, cinemas and champagne: do care homes need such luxury? – Helen Martin

IT was three years ago when my mum in her 90s died in a care home where she’d lived for seven years. The word “lived” is a bit dubious. Her first few years involved gradual deterioration before extreme dementia kicked in, and the last few years involved a great deal of care and dedicated support, but no quality of life.

Monday, 8th July 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 8th July 2019, 7:00 am
Most care home residents just want to live in a homely environment  not in five-star facilities with bars and beauty salons
Most care home residents just want to live in a homely environment  not in five-star facilities with bars and beauty salons

She had barely any recognition, no vocal communication, was unable to eat or drink without assistance, and eventually the last smile left her lips.

Mum wasn’t the only elderly person I knew in residential care. Some were able to watch a bit of telly, some liked a sing-song, or a drive to a garden centre or shopping mall. But most had stayed at home for as long as possible (which is the aim of government and councils) with family or care workers helping them to dress, shower, toilet, take medication, eat meals and go to bed.

They all needed a high level of staff when they eventually moved to a care home, and I could understand the challenges that faced companies and families who ran these homes as costs soared, but funds from government and local authorities didn’t.

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Even self-funding residents also depend partly on local authority allowances.

Many eventually run out of their savings to pay monthly care home bills from £2000 to £3000 minimum, then shift to public funding.

Recently I’ve been confused by the promotion of several new “luxury” care homes for the elderly.

They look more like elaborate hotels. I can understand that families would be impressed. Some early dementia or frail old folk might like the sound of it too. But for how long could they embrace those luxuries in what should be their home for life? Is that where management money should go?

Among the facilities I’ve seen on offer are in-built cinemas, butler service, dining rooms plus day-time brasseries, bars offering wine, beer, or champagne, and beauty salons – along with 24-hour nursing care.

Nursing and care home residents I’ve visited in the past hardly had the cognitive and memory ability to follow a movie. On special occasions maybe a wee glass of wine or sherry was available to a few, but not those on high meds or with advanced dementia. Support staff might do hand cream and nail care and a hairdresser would visit once or twice a week. But an elderly person who can’t live at home any longer and needs full-time care isn’t likely to pop into a beauty salon.

Even the introduction of en-suites could be problematic as access to a bathroom was no good for those who couldn’t cope or avoid loo disaster without a carer, so the en-suite had to be locked.

Do such extra, facilities cost more and increase fees? Is a “five-star” luxury joint what elderly people want rather than a homely, familiar place to live with medical care, nice meals, friendly activities and exercise? Isn’t that what we really need for the future?

Scottish Care, representing the independent care sector, believes more and more care homes may have to close because of unmeetable costs and staffing needed – with insufficient state funding. I agree with that.

And in my mid-sixties now, will there be a choice of affordable, familiar, homely, care homes if and when I need one . . . without bars, butlers and brasseries?

It’s slippery slope

EDINBURGH’S Christmas Festival has caused uproar with Underbelly’s attempts to bring back the St Andrew Square skating rink.

But those who believe they are trying to protect that city square by suggesting the rink sets up in the Meadows, Inch Park or Bristo Square are not appreciated by residents who live around those areas. One of our commenters said they wanted it moved somewhere else because “Edinburgh is a big city”! Now that’s the problem.

Edinburgh is a small, compact and densely residential city. If the rink has to be anywhere, the city centre is fairer than battering and ruining another neighbourhood. No-one wants it on their doorstep. Why not just ban it altogether?

Hunt’s corporation tax cut is not enough to help businesses grow

CORPORATION tax isn’t something those of us who are humble employees or part-time workers know much about. I was aware the tax rate was about 19 per cent, so I was pleasantly surprised when multi-millionaire Jeremy Hunt said his plan was to reduce it to 12.5 per cent, especially to benefit small businesses. I recoiled in shock when he went on to explain that such a move would mean a company making a profit of £20,000 would pay £1300 less a year!

A £20,000 profit doesn’t strike me as the income of a “corporation” or what most of us see as a “corporate body”. A small rise in premises rental, staff wages or minor upgrading of equipment could easily wipe it all out. If we want businesses to be started, to have a chance to grow, to develop, create a couple of jobs and help boost the economy, I don’t see why the tax should apply at all until profit reaches at least £50k.

Tragic accident

NO-ONE is responsible for illegal immigrants stowing-away in plane under-carriages and dying. Lack of oxygen, freezing temperature, air pressure, being mangled by landing gear and falling out equals obvious death. It’s horrible and tragic – but rules and regulations can’t cope with stupidity, suicide or both.