1.6 Million Older People ‘Have Unmet Care & Support Needs’
The UK’s health and social care system for older people appears to be failing in its endeavours to provide the care and support this demographic requires, driven in large part by a lack of workforce planning and ten years of under-investment.
This is according to new research from charity Age UK, revealing that more than 1.6 million older people in the country currently have some level of fundamental care and support need that is not being fully addressed, whether that’s requiring help to get dressed, washed or to get out of bed.
The Fixing The Foundations report also found that the proportion of older people saying they feel supported to manage their health conditions has dropped by nearly 20 per cent in relative terms since 2016/2017, while one in five of those over the age of 80 have some unmet need for social care.
The underfunded and overstretched NHS and social care system is now struggling – and occasionally failing – to manage the needs of older people.
Families and carers are now feeling increasing amounts of pressure because of longstanding problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with ambulances stacking up outside hospitals and long waits for everyone to access urgent care, young and old alike.
One potential solution suggested by the charity is to deliver proactive joined-up healthcare and social care to older people in their own homes before their health takes a turn for the worse. This could reduce the need for crisis hospital care and make it easier for those who do require in-patient care to be safely discharged.
Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “It would be terrible if Age UK had to publish another report in five years’ time that once again found these same problems were still to be addressed.
“The fact is we know what has to happen to unblock our jammed-up hospitals and give older people the dignified health and social care support they need and deserve, and it’s down to the government above all, to provide the leadership and resources to make it happen.”
Further Age UK research has revealed the impact of the cost of living crisis on people over the age of 60, with 54 per cent saying that it will affect their health and care needs. And a further 52 per cent said they were concerned or very concerned about the winter months, with 62 per cent admitting that they’ve had to cut back on heating their home to make ends meet.
Prolonged exposure to the cold can have a big impact on the health of older people. As we age, it’s harder for our bodies to regulate temperature and it takes us longer to warm up because of a loss of muscle mass, while immune systems can become weaker.
Our hearts and circulatory systems are also affected by colder temperatures, potentially increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
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