The NPC has published the following comment piece on this issue:
“Many families of those suffering from dementia have been quick to point out the potential benefits of using a tracking device to help find their loved ones if they should go missing, and whilst this is understandable, it doesn’t really address the fundamental issue of how we look after those who can no longer look after themselves.
What is widely accepted is that the social care system in England is collapsing, and the needs of many older people are simply failing to be addressed. Local councils have suffered a thirty per cent reduction in care budgets, services are now heavily rationed to those with the most severe conditions and almost a million pensioners who need some kind of care are denied any help at all. This puts a tremendous strain on the family carers – many of whom are themselves older and contending with their own health issues.
Thinking that dignified care can be delivered by a means-tested social care system, which relies on low paid staff carrying out fifteen minute visits is simply fanciful. The quality of care people receive varies greatly, the support that families receive can be patchy and yet someone is making money out of domiciliary care. Very few politicians seem prepared to discuss the fact that without radical reform, and an urgent injection of funds, some of our most vulnerable older people will simply slip through the cracks.
The decision to use tracking devices on dementia patients is therefore part of this overall problem. This is a completely unregulated area of social care, without any safeguards for the individual against any abuse of the system. It also raises very serious concerns about issues of consent – and if local authorities and police forces across the country are intent on expanding this area, the government must ensure there are proper regulations and safeguards in place.
How we look at dementia also has to change. Successive governments have often seen it as a social care issue, rather than a medical issue, and as such it has been subject to a means-test and dealt with by local councils rather than through the NHS. There is a real case for more dedicated dementia nurses, working out in the community, and providing specialist help and support. But as a society, we have yet to properly address how we care for an ageing population to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity. People need more human contact, not less, and whilst technology has a role to play it can never replace compassion, care and attention. Those with enough money can of course buy this – but for most of us we either have to sell our homes or use all our savings before there’s any extra help available. Good care costs money – and a decision has to be made about whether we want to invest in a proper care service – or simply keep putting a sticking plaster on a system that needs something more fundamental.”