We will be running guest blogs from the four political parties over the next few days in the run-up to the Assembly Elections. We continue with Nick Ramsay of the Welsh Conservatives, who writes about the challenges facing the elderly.
By Nick Ramsay
As a former ‘older people’s champion,’ I am well aware of the challenges that come with advancing age.
Poor housing, poor nutrition, a lack of employment, and inadequate transport services are central to the concerns of older people.
In many cases, older people suffer from poor quality health care, in mixed-sex wards, where they are not treated with dignity or respect.
The Welsh Conservative Party will take immediate action against elder abuse and age discrimination by running a national anti-ageism campaign and conducting a review of advocacy services. We think it is vital that older people are provided with clearer, more up-to-date information about the services and benefits that they are entitled to, as well as the dangers of scam letters, bills and phone calls.
An age-friendly society must also listen to the preferences of older people with care or support needs. For most individuals, domiciliary care is preferable because they are able to stay in familiar surroundings – with their own possessions and often friends and family nearby.
Our party will make personal care budgets available to all those who wish to have the power to shape their own social care, enabling them to choose services that suit their own particular circumstances.
A Welsh Conservative government will also support more flexible working practices, and develop the ‘Centres for Independent Living’ model within Wales by working with local authorities and the voluntary sector.
An age-friendly society must also ensure that older people are always treated with dignity when they are in the care of others. In both acute and community hospitals visitors have found their elderly relatives in a soiled or incontinent state. Older patients have even deprived themselves of fluids in order to mitigate the possibility of being incontinent.
It is also worrying that some older patients are provided with no assistance during mealtimes. Many others identify problems with NHS staff responding to emergency buzzer calls.
At all levels of nursing, staff must be prepared to deal with the issue of continence, mobility and cleanliness. As we see people enjoying longer lives, we will be facing different health challenges. Many practical steps can be taken, but, to make those really effective, we need to foster a culture of dignity and respect for older patients. Ward culture plays an important part in shaping and aiding an older person’s recovery.
It is also clear that investing in specialised staff and training has the potential to deliver significant improvements, and there is no reason to doubt that dementia patients would not benefit in the same way.
A Welsh Conservative Assembly government will be a new voice for older people. Tackling elder abuse and age discrimination will be a priority. We will continue to work closely with the Older People’s Commissioner to protect and promote the welfare of older people. We will also ensure that as many older people as possible are supported to live independently in their own homes.