Alzheimer’s – Creating a Caring Society
This blog focuses on the care aspect of the elderly, including Alzheimer’s sufferers who make up an increasing percentage of this sector. We are all aware of recent reports of appalling neglect in care homes and hospitals that have been headline news and shocked the nation. How might we build a culture of caring for this vulnerable part of our society that is growing exponentially? How might we create a new generation that cares?
Traditional societies care for their elderly within the framework of family and at home. But in the developed Western World, where we usually do not have the support of the extended family, and family members often live far apart, care is frequently provided by non-family care workers and latterly this is in the environment of a care home. As a result many families have become detached from the intimate experience of caring for their elderly relatives. Further more, when they enter the institutional environment of the care home with its rules and regulations, they don’t feel empowered to say and do what would
otherwise come naturally and become passive visitors.
Both my parents spent time in care homes but I was nevertheless actively involved with them and their care. I chose to make them my top priority when they were in need of support near the end of their lives. This was not easy as my home was in London and they were in Scotland but I managed it and fortunately I was in a position to do this.
Please understand, I am not seeking adulation, it was me who gained so much. But whenever I give talks about my experiences I am struck by the comments I receive. People think that it was a sacrifice, that I was some sort of angel. Well it wasn’t a sacrifice and I am not an angel! Quite the reverse – I got so much out of being actively engaged with my parents. It enriched all our lives and was life-changing for me.
Caring is something that comes naturally in most young children and I am proposing that activities that foster this be integrated into the school curriculum from a young age. A good way to do this would be to include a subject, ‘acts of kindness’ for younger children and ‘being of service’ for older pupils. Every child / pupil would have a record book / journal that would go with them through school and have at least one entry per week. Teachers could have projects that would encourage and support children and pupils in this area. As children got older their activities could extend out into the community. These
activities would not need to be grand but could be small yet meaningful. The aim of this work would be to develop awareness and an attitude of caring in our young people. They would learn the value of helping others and the happiness it brings to both the giver and the recipient. Hopefully they would take this learning out into society at large later in life.
I acknowledge that many carers in the UK come from overseas and would not necessarily have had the kind of programme I am suggesting. However, if in the future family members are empowered by knowing about caring through their own experience, they could make a positive contribution.
I appreciate that my proposal might sound like a utopian idea but I believe it could work. It would take a generation for it to filter through but the number of old people in our society is growing all the time so we should start now. How else are we going to meet the needs of the growing elderly population? How are we going to change the culture of care?
What do you think?
Looking forward to sharing my Christmas blog with you.
Maggie La Tourelle
The Gift of Alzheimer’s