Caring in Croydon

By - Wednesday 5th June, 2013

David White explains why Croydonians need to care about care

The statistics for caring are staggering. There are over 6 million carers in the UK, and 30,000 in Croydon. By “carer” I mean someone who is looking after a relative or friend who is elderly, ill or disabled. This article mainly deals with dementia, but there are of course a lot of other reasons why someone might need care.

Photo by Flicktone. Used under Creative Commons license.

It is estimated that, at some point in our lives, 60% of us will take on a caring role. For me this happened in the late 1990s when my mother was suffering from dementia. Like most people in this position I had little idea of what help or support was available. Those of you who are, or have been, carers will know that there are a lot of matters – medical, legal, financial, emotional etc. – which carers have to contend with. I happened to go to a talk given by a lady from the Alzheimer’s Society Croydon Branch and this led me an interest in the subject, which continued after my mother passed away.

In fact there was very little help or support for carers in the 1990s. GPs were often not very knowledgeable about dementia. There were no specialist clinics.

There has been a lot of change, much of it for the better. In Croydon we now have a specialist Memory Clinic (at Heavers Resource Centre, 122 Selhurst Road, SE25). GPs and others can refer people there if they have problems with their memory. As a result people are being diagnosed much earlier and can often benefit from treatment and support.

There is a number of organisations in the borough that also do good work in this field. A Carers’ Support Centre, backed by the Whitgift Foundation, is due to open later in the summer. There are organisations, such as Crossroads, that provide people to sit with an elderly or frail person – this often releases the carer to have a little time of their own. Age UK provides information and a number of services. Croydon Radio has the excellent Carers’ Show with Dawn Assefa on Wednesdays at 1pm.

Croydon Council Social Services also has a role. There are some wonderful individuals working for Social Services, but in my experience the picture overall is less satisfactory.

We must be on our guard to see that cuts which are currently being made do not send us into reverse

Finally I should mention Malcolm Wicks, the former MP for Croydon North, who died last year. Malcolm always took an interest in carers’ issues and he piloted through Parliament the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995. This gave carers the right to an assessment of their own needs. Such assessments in Croydon are now carried out by the Alzheimers Society as agents for Social Services.

Carers provide a vital role and save the Exchequer billions of pounds. It is important that their work be recognised and it is good to see that increasingly this is the case. We must be on our guard to see that cuts that are currently being made do not send us into reverse.

In my next article I hope to write about legal issues affecting carers and the people they care for, such as Powers of Attorney, Wills, the Court of Protection and similar matters.

David White

David White

David lives in Park Hill, Croydon. Until his recent retirement he was a solicitor specialising in elderly client matters. He is a member of the Labour Party.

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  • Anne Giles

    We were lucky with my mother. I got her into sheltered accommodation with carers after she took an overdose. I had Power of Attorney and was constantly having to cancel direct debits which she would organise to various charities. She would order clothes from Damart and then give them away to the other residents – so my sister (a nurse who specialises in the elderly) took over the catalogue. All her mail came to me. Eventually she went into a nursing home, where she was treated very well and which the NHS paid for, as she had malignant melanomas.

    • David White

      Your last sentence raises an interesting point, Anne. Some people have their care fees paid by the NHS, if they qualify for “NHS Continuing Care”. However most dementia sufferers don’t qualify for this, as they’re deemed to be “social care” cases. Often the distinction is fairly arbitrary, and it can make a difference of thousands of pounds to what the person and their family have to pay.

      • Anne Giles

        Terribly unfair!

  • Christian Wilcox

    Keep it going David. The more noise the better :)