By Kim Jackson, Trainee Solicitor at Fletchers
By 2025, 2.8 million people over the age of 65 will require nursing and social care. As a result, the Government will need to give serious consideration to long term care.
With public and private expenditure required, this will have a knock on effect on a health service that is already stretched. The Government will need to be forward thinking in their approach in order to tackle this evolving issue.
Whilst it is believed that we are living in a time of an ageing population, the Office for National Statistics however indicated that the UK is at the bottom of a league table of leading countries when it comes to the mortality of the elderly. Since 2011, there has been a notable plateauing of the life expectancy in the UK. Public health experts put this down to failings of care for the elderly.
There is a lack of adequate care homes and financial support for informal and home care. It is estimated that individuals and their families pay around 40% of the national cost of long-term care from their income and savings. This is a staggering percentage that leaves many people with the additional stress of funding treatment required.
According to Age UK, falls in the elderly is the main reason for admission to hospital – in 2016, 13 elderly people a day died as a result of a fall. Preventative methods need to be implemented to reduce the admissions of elderly into hospital and the time they spend on a ward.
At the Princess Royal University Hospital, staff have implemented a strategy to identify frail patients and offer them the support that they need. Bromley has the largest ageing population in the capital with almost one in five being over 65. Of these people, one in ten are considered frail and likely to experience long stays in hospital as a result. Staff at the Princess Royal University hospital are in the process of setting up an acute frailty network. This will look to identify vulnerable elderly people quickly and provide appropriate support.
The hospital has recently conducted a two week trial involving a multi-disciplinary team assessing patients who attend the emergency department. The team worked tirelessly to discharge patients who were well enough, to their home with a care plan in place or to a community rehabilitation service. More than 50% of patients who would ordinarily have been admitted were discharged home with support arranged. Given evidence shows that just 10 days of hospital stay can amount to 10 years of muscle wasting, this is a proactive initiative to encourage elderly people to receive the support they need from their home.
Other initiatives such as strength and balance classes in a community will allow the elderly to remain active and independent. Services such as this reduce costs regarding hospital admissions and takes the strain off social care.
Old age is something that most people will experience. On that basis, we need to implement methods of prevention and efficient treatment on a wider scale to reach as many of the older generation as possible.