Did you watch “Care” the BBC drama, screened in December, starring Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman? It certainly caused a bit of a stir and highlighted the failings in our health and social care systems from the perspective of people with dementia and their families.
Sheridan Smith did a fantastic job portraying Jenny, whose mother, Mary (brilliantly played by Alison Steadman) had a stroke which left her unable to communicate effectively, confused and angry. Jenny lost her mother in an instant and effectively gained a child who needed constant care and reassurance and someone to make decisions about her future. A whole host of other problems were then thrown into the mix. Lack of money, family conflicts and sisters who seemed to be miles apart on their views of the situation. It seemed very real. Nobody watching could fail to feel sympathy for what they were going through. I’m sure many people could identify with some of the issues this family experienced. It was extremely sad to think about people with dementia being denied the care they need and suffering such indignity at the hands of our health and social care system. But I couldn’t help thinking that this whole business would be just as harrowing for all the health and social care staff involved.
The first nursing home Mary went to was referred to as “That bloody nursing home”. Mary managed to abscond from here much to Jenny’s disgust. My heart really went out to the care home worker (I’m presuming she was the manager) who looked ashamed and distraught as she tried to explain about ridiculously short staffing. Sometimes there were only 3 staff to 30 residents, and sometimes one resident might need all 3 staff. Then, just when you’re thinking… do something about it then! She explains that the home is in financial difficulty, they know that the care is not good enough, the NHS, Social Services and CQC know that the care is not good enough, but nobody is doing anything about it. I know it’s a “drama”, but the issues were real.
Health and Social Care workers are under pressure to provide that all important person-centred care and support families too, with so few resources, low wages and lack of funding available. It’s no wonder that care workers are leaving their professions in droves. They are pushed to their limits performing tasks that don’t match their values as human beings, just like the care worker from “That bloody nursing home”. This inevitably leads to work-related stress, burnout and care workers leaving the professions that they once loved.
The care home where Mary eventually ended up after securing continuing health care status, was portrayed romantically as everything she required, including posh furnishings and relaxed looking managers in suits. We all know it doesn’t stop there though. Let’s hope this year brings us all a bit more hope for the future.’