All blogs are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Age.
Health and social care services in this country are currently going through huge change, designed to put people at the heart of the system.
But while this idea beds in, people across the country are telling us the most important thing is to get the fundamentals right first. More power for patients is vital, but as a concept it will struggle to have real impact unless we are all treated with the dignity and respect we deserve.
This idea becomes even more important as we start to redesign services. For example, medical innovations will make it easier to manage conditions like arthritis or diabetes without constant visits to the doctor. But while such options might save millions, they will fail on a human level if they result in vulnerable elderly people becoming increasingly isolated.
The way to make the UK the best place in which to grow old is for service providers to always start and end with the person.
When we talk to people, very few understand who funds or provides their care, and why should they? For them, the question isn’t, “Should my CCG or council be responsible for my care?”, but rather, “What support is available to help me live with the level of health and independence I need and want?”
So let’s stop talking about complex system questions of ‘reconfiguration’ and ‘integration’ and start a meaningful conversation about what people want.
On the flip side, we all are living longer - many of us with conditions that previously would have killed us sooner, like cancer. Yet many still don’t prepare for healthier life in old age. We don’t think about diet, our drinking or plan for contributions towards care costs.
We need a fundamental change in the relationship between those who use services and those who provide them. We can no longer see doctors, nurses, care workers etc as responsible for fixing us. They are partners who can help us lead healthier, longer and more independent lives.
This is a big step for those used to thinking that the doctor always knows best. It also means the professionals need to start involving us more in decisions about our treatment and supporting us to take more responsibility.
Accepting more responsibility for our health throughout our lives gives us licence to be more demanding as we get older. After all, just because the landscape of healthcare looks very different to that of our grandparents, it doesn’t mean we should have to put up with less. Buying into this more person-led model will give us more peace of mind over exactly what our needs will be as we get older.
So why not have your old fashioned, but this time with a modern twist, where patients have an equal role in deciding how they look after themselves and the treatment and care they receive.
What do you think needs to happen to make the UK the best country to grow older in?
What concerns you most about growing older and why?
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