It makes me angry to read the BBC report that Ken Maitland, who had dementia, was visited in his own home by 106 different care workers in one single year. Jeannette Maitland started to write a list of the names of the assorted care workers so that she could get to know them.
I did exactly as Jeanette Maitland did when my own relative with dementia began to receive so-called support in her own home. She lived alone then, so I hoped that if I got to know the names of the people visiting her, I’d be able to talk to her about them and encourage her to accept their support. Before long, I was distressed to find that – within the space of just 2 weeks – she was visited by 14 different ‘names’. She had been allocated just two daily visits from one carer at each visit. I could only imagine how distressed she must have felt too. I spoke to the local council but they weren’t interested. The social worker did nothing to help.
When she moved into extra-care sheltered housing, the social worker assured me that the problem would be removed, because the Housing Group that owned and ran the housing also owned and ran the on-site domiciliary care agency providing the on-site support 24/7 to the residents, each in their own flat.
By this time, she was in need of 4 visits per day. She was still paying for her housing and for the visits by the support workers.
The problem was not removed – it was made worse.
“I’m fed up with all these different people coming into my flat” she said to me.
She withdrew. She started to refuse them access to her flat. She started to retreat to the bathroom. She just withdrew.
I spoke this time with the on-site manager of the extra-care sheltered housing. She said there was nothing she would do because “we like our staff to gain experience”.
I objected to my relative suffering so that the staff could gain experience.
What I didn’t know then, though, was that all the staff from this so-called ‘on-site 24/7 domiciliary care agency’ owned and run by the Housing Group were all acquired from numerous and different agencies, on an ad hoc basis, with no training, no job security, nothing that could be called care. They were just casual labour.
It was in 2006 and 2007 that my relative encountered the same problems that Ken and Jeannette Maitland experienced far more recently. Plus ҫa change plus c’est la même chose. Have we learned nothing about dementia care in the intervening years? Have we learned nothing?
What kind of animal have we unleashed and allowed it to be called ‘care’?