Whether we like it or not, we are all getting older.
Improvements in medical care mean we are now living longer and in many cases in a better state of health.
A recent European Commission study anticipates that the proportion of the EU’s population aged 65 and over will rise from 19% to 29% by 2070, while the segment aged 80 and over will increase from 5% to 13%.
The requirement for care homes is also growing but random allegations of poor living standards, differing levels of care and a lack of funding have all damaged the reputation of the system.
Hampton Care is a privately-run nursing home situated in the leafy London suburb of Hampton and we spoke to Laura Dowd, General Manager of the home, to gain a better understanding of what residential care for the elderly looks like in the 21st Century and how it might change in the future.
Can you tell me a little about your care home and what you feel makes it different to many others?
“Hampton Care opened in 2008 and was part of a small company consisting of 2 homes. The home is based on 3 floors and is purpose built with all rooms being much larger than the average size for a nursing home, and all feature en-suite bathroom facilities.
“We also have separate bathrooms with baths and hoisting seats so anyone can enjoy a soak as well as a shower. Some rooms have their own patios and residents can sit outside in their own personal area if they wish or join in the communal areas.
“The gardens are extensive and for 2 years running won the title for Richmond in Bloom in 2013 and 2016. The home was taken over by Canford Healthcare in 2017 who own another 11 homes in the South East and we provide residential, nursing, dementia and palliative care and can take residents on a permanent or respite basis. Although we are able to take anyone over the age of 18 most of our clients are over 65.”
What do you feel sets your home apart from many others?
“Our USP is that a person can come in as a residential client and never have to leave. Some of our residents are still driving their car and enjoy a full and active social life but as they age and inevitably deteriorate we can introduce the extra help or care required up until their final days.
“Our families have the peace of mind of never having to source another place of care for their loved one as putting a parent in a nursing home is a stressful and life-changing decision. Because we cater for all needs, couples can also stay together. If one of them does deteriorate we can provide the right care without having to separate them. If you have been with your partner for 50-60 years, then it’s a big thing.”
“Our gardens are also something that sets us apart as they are large and have sheltered areas so residents can sit outside on milder days and enjoy some fresh air.”
How many people do you currently look after?
“We are able to take up to 76 residents at any one time. At the moment, we have just under 70 in the home, but as you can imagine this figure constantly fluctuates.”
Why do you feel social care has received such a bad rap over the last few years?
“Good news isn’t very interesting so a shocking story will always grab the headlines and the front page! Care of the elderly is a very emotive subject and plays on so many facets of our psyche. There is an element of guilt attached to placing someone in a home and that exacerbates the media frenzy to seek out the negative stories; that kind of journalism will always get a reaction.
“However, it is essential that bad care is highlighted for obvious reasons; poor care needs to be taken out of the system. Unfortunately, you rarely hear about the good places, filled with dedicated workers who are doing the job because they genuinely care and want to help. The elderly population is increasing and there will be more older people in society as the years go by and it’s going to get harder and more expensive to provide the service needed. People are realising that and it frightens them so a story about poor social care is going to hit a nerve.”
With an ageing population care homes are even more important. How do you feel they are likely to change over the coming years?
“The current NHS strategy is to place more care into the community, meaning hospitals will eventually only be for the very sick or acute care. An example of this is a hip replacement, which will soon become a day case if there is an adult at home to assist, with community nurses and physiotherapists coming in to aid recovery when necessary. As a result, more people will be treated outside hospital and I foresee nursing homes providing more of the care that traditionally went through a hospital.
“There are many advantages to this: we know our residents; they are less likely be exposed to resistant bacteria and it’s a lot cheaper. It does also mean that the industry will have to offer a more comprehensive service as a good nursing home could become a mini hospital.
“Another consideration could be a lack of good people to look after the increasing number of elderly people and costs will escalate due to the simple law of supply and demand. I believe that some British people may even investigate care overseas as the costs at home could be prohibitive. Unless Nursing homes start acting now to pre-empt this we are heading for a major crisis. New technologies will help, call aids, computerised monitoring systems etc and I am starting to consider options not to replace but to enhance the care we deliver.”
Why do you feel there are still stigmas attached to the elderly and care homes?
“Most nursing and care homes are wonderful places, full of life and joy but unless people are directly involved with them they don’t appreciate that. They are viewed by some as the last resort and that can’t be further from the truth. We are trying to overcome the stereotypes at Hampton Care be engaging with the community, including schools and local businesses, providing people with the opportunity to visit our home and see it for themselves.”
How do you keep the residents occupied during the average day?
“We have a timetable of activities, covering a wide spectrum, including arts and crafts, outside entertainers, movies, sing-alongs, pat-dogs, games and exercise and we engage with the local community including schools, volunteers and local charity groups. Visiting times are unrestricted and families and friends can come as they please.
Do you think public perception around care homes needs to change?
“Without question. There is a perception from many areas of society that nursing homes are depressing places where people come to die and so most people keep a wide berth of them. I’m hoping that more positive media coverage and better public engagement through articles like this one may help change that view.
If you would like more information on Hampton Care then visit their site here.
George R Vaughan