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A grandfather fell, wounded his head and was taken to hospital while waiting for a social care assessment to enable him to go into a care home, his family said.
Douglas Barton has been the sole carer of his father Derek, who was living in a “granny annex” attached to the family home in Essex, for the past seven years.
The 85-year-old’s needs significantly increased after he was discharged from hospital following a stroke – his second – in April.
Despite it being agreed that his father would need care at home upon discharge, Mr Barton said the council told him they were having difficulty arranging this.
Realising he had “taken on too much”, in early July Mr Barton requested an assessment for his father to go into residential care, but said he was not given a date.
The 56-year-old chased for a date over the following weeks as his father deteriorated, becoming weaker and less mobile.
On July 18, when the country was in the grip of a fierce heatwave, Mr Barton took the day off work as a self-employed gardener so he could visit hourly, as he knew his father would struggle with the heat.
He fell multiple times that day, with Mr Barton discovering him lying on the floor having been calling out for help.
On the last occasion, he was unable to lift his father, whose head was bleeding, so an ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital.
The Bartons’ story illustrates the pressures councils are facing across England, laid bare by the growing number of people waiting for social care, assessments and reviews.
Recent data from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) suggests around 600 people are joining waiting lists to be assessed for social care and support every day.
The membership organisation warned that people are suffering at home without the right support, more people are needing to enter hospital and then face lengthy waits to be discharged, and family carers are being forced to give up work to look after their loved ones.
Derek has now been discharged into a nearby care home. Mr Barton said he had left hospital staff in “no doubt” that this was his father’s “only option”.
He told PA he has found the past months “really depressing” and “one of the biggest emotional challenges I’ve had to face”.
He said: “It’s (been) difficult watching dad suffer and knowing I cannot really do enough for him, at the same time feeling there is no outside help available unless I make a massive fuss, something I’m not really comfortable doing.”
An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: “We regret every case where we aren’t able to provide the service at the standard we would wish.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges in care market capacity, with recruitment of staff, a stretched workforce and Covid remaining virulent in the community.
“As a result, we are seeing high levels of discharge from hospital with increasing levels of frailty.
“While we do have a backlog of care packages which put in place the right levels of care and support, we are meeting well over 90% of the demand we see.
“Whether an individual is fit to be discharged from hospital is determined solely by the NHS. Once this has happened, adult social care would then complete a Care Act assessment to determine any ongoing care and support needs.”
Age UK said growing challenges navigating the health and care system are causing “huge frustration and distress” for older people and their loved ones.
One person told the charity that it was agreed in December that her mother needed 24-hour care.
But “it took so long to arrange” that she died in March this year.
Another said that lack of availability meant their brother was placed in a care home 30 miles from his friends and family, which has affected his mental health.
One relative said: “Communication with social care is very difficult and extremely slow because of pressure on the service.
“(My) mother-in-law spent two months in hospital because there was no space in care homes or community hospitals.”
The charity’s report ‘Why can’t I get care?’ will explore these issues in more detail in September.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “We are very pleased to hear that the gentleman is now settled in a care home but of course it’s deeply disturbing to hear of all he had to go through to get there.
“This story sadly reflects what we are hearing more and more at Age UK, namely older people in desperate need of care not getting it in a timely manner or sometimes at all.
“In the meantime, their health declines and as in this case all too often the person can end up in a hospital bed for much longer than is medically required, waiting for care to become available.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are reforming adult social care, backed by record funding over the next three years, to ensure it is on a sustainable footing. People should not have to wait for social care assessments.
“We have committed a minimum of £7.2 billion this year for the Better Care Fund, to enable people to stay well and get the care they need, when they need it, by funding, for example, adaptations to homes for disabled people and rehabilitating people back into their communities after time in hospital.”
“We are also delivering on our ambitious 10-year vision for adult social care which includes incentivising the supply of supported housing for older people and disabled adults through the Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund.”
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