The deception of youth: reflections for the International Day of Older Persons.

This past week I have had the privilege of spending time with some of the most creative global thinkers and leaders in the space of aged care and older people’s rights by attending both European and Global Ageing meetings in Vienna. It has been invigorating to spend time sharing issues of mutual interest and concern, and recognising the solidarity of shared action, resolve and priority.  One of the best contributions in the events was from my colleague Katie Smith Sloan who is the Director of the Global Ageing Network as well as being the CEO of Leading Age, the foremost older people’s care and support membership body in the United States. Katie delivered a tremendous keynote speech with much insight, but one observation which struck home to me was when she noted that one of the reasons that we are witnessing such an increase in age discrimination across the world is that on the whole people, whether policy makers, politicians, or ordinary citizen, we are uncomfortable with recognising the reality that the world’s population is ageing.

That fear of ageing and the associated reluctance to recognise the reality of discrimination against older people, lies at the heart of the International Day of Older Persons which we celebrate and recognise today, the 1st of October. This year the United Nations is marking the day by encouraging us to recognise the amazingly resilient contribution of older women.

They state in recognition of the way in which Covid 19 has exacerbated older person discrimination that:

“While older women continue to meaningfully contribute to their political, civil, economic, social and cultural lives; their contributions and experiences remain largely invisible and disregarded, limited by gendered disadvantages accumulated throughout the life course. The intersection between discrimination based on age and gender compounds new and existing inequalities, including negative stereotypes that combine ageism and sexism…

Recognizing the vital contributions of older women and promoting the inclusion of their voices, perspectives and needs are critical to creating meaningful policies to enhance a holistic response to local, national, and global challenges and catastrophes, UNIDOP 2022 is a call to action and opportunity aimed to embrace the voices of older women and showcase their resilience and contributions in society, while promoting policy dialogues to enhance the protection of older persons human rights and recognize their contributions to sustainable development.”

That call and encouragement should have a particular resonance for the care sector not only because the majority of people who receive social care supports are older women but because the majority of those who deliver that care and support, whether paid or unpaid, are themselves women and many of them living with the challenges of older age.

As the United Nations states the population of the world is ageing and doing so at a faster and increasing rate.

“Over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050. All regions will see an increase in the size of the older population between 2019 and 2050… the fastest increase is projected to take place in the least developed countries, where the number of persons aged 65 or over could rise from 37 million in 2019 to 120 million in 2050 (225%).”

In Scotland our population is also ageing.

“Those aged 65 and older grow from being 20 per cent of the population in 2022 to 32 per cent of the population in 2072. 9. These changes mean Scotland’s population is projected to be 7.6 years older on average in 2072 than in 2022, in comparison the UK population is set to be 6.1 years older over the same time period.” Trends-in-Scotlands-population-and-effects-on-the-economy-and-income-tax-August-2022.pdf (fiscalcommission.scot)

So, is it true that we are frightened of growing old both as individuals and as a society? Is that why we fear to be honest with the truth because we have swallowed the quest of seeking the illusive fountain of youthfulness? Indeed, most societies have in literature and art, in design and fashion portrayed the allure of youthfulness, equating beauty and creativity, vibrancy and life with youthfulness. It is maybe not surprising therefore that when older age is reflected upon it is with a language highlighting decline and deficit, diminishment, and decay. It is about what can no longer be done, the limitations of body and mind, the past is viewed with a yearnsomness and desire which is lost forever.

I do not think we will ever address all the systemic and political lack of priority, value and status around social care which I often reflect upon, without alongside it challenging the pervasive ageism that afflicts our societies, not just in Scotland but in so many countries.  We will never meet the challenge of support, care and health care without spinning on its axis our age presumption and bigotry. This will not simply be achieved by the occasional fashion magazine employing older age models, or advertising being more reflective of its consumers, or ageist language being more frequently challenged in daily discourse – all of which are important – ageism requires a societal shifting of the sands. We need in the present moment to witness the same degree of popular and civic campaigning which in the 1960s and 70s led to us addressing gender and sex-based discrimination. We need to reach a stage where ageist behaviours, assumptions and stereotypes are as unacceptable as those against an individual’s race or ethnicity or any individual characteristic. But we also need to become more comfortable with age, revolutionise our thinking with a dose of positivity and a celebration of the benefits of older age as well as some of the limitations. We have a long way to go before we can truly say we are an age positive society, one that not only gets up and offers a seat to those who are old but lets that population take control of the destination. It will perhaps come when people stop asking what can be achieved in older age and reflect rather on the creativity of a poet writing her best work, an artist painting in a new style, a mother reconciled to a daughter, a father holding a hard conversation for the first time in his life, someone being able to be honest with themselves about their identity – all actions and experiences I have witnessed in the lives of those in their nineties. Positive change can happen until the last breaths of life.

The late Scottish poet Elma Mitchell with her usual directness describes the ageing of a woman’s body but tantalisingly wonders does older age lie to youth or is youthfulness the delusion of deceit? A revolution of ageist presumption is required by the whole of society so that we learn to see beyond the chronology of years to recognise the value of individuality without condition and without the label of age to limit insight.

Good Old Days

My neck, where love ran

Just under the skin

Is now an old rickety ladder to the brain.

My breasts, a full delight

For child and man,

The setting

To carry rival jewels,

Dangle now untidy,

Unharvested, over-ripe.

The wishbone of my legs

Has changed their wishes’ destination,

Shin repeats to shin,

Welcome, death, you may come in.

I should be cheerless

As a crow in winter fields

When the light is going

But up here, at the top of the spine, behind the eyes,

Curtained a little, but not blind,

Sits a young and laughing mind

Wondering which part of me is telling lies.

Elma Mitchell

from The Human Cage (Peterloo Poets, 1979)

Good Old Days by Elma Mitchell – Scottish Poetry Library

A Scotland that Cares – 29 September

  Public urged to back campaign for a landmark “National Outcome” to value and invest in care and carers in Scotland

  • Cost-of-living crisis is deepening long-standing pressures on those who provide care

  • Care and carers currently “invisible” within Scotland’s existing National Outcomes

  • Scottish Government preparing to review Outcomes for the first time in 5 years

  • Campaign for a new National Outcome on care backed by more than 45 organisations

A unique group of more than 45 organisations is urging people across Scotland – and particularly those with direct experience of any form of care or caring – to back a major campaign for a new “National Outcome” on care.

The “A Scotland that cares” campaign says those who experience and provide care, including paid care workers, unpaid carers, and parents, have been undervalued for too long, with many facing deep financial and personal pressures.

The organisations say the situation was significantly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and is now being made even worse by the cost-of-living crisis. Frontline and support organisations report that rising energy, food and fuel bills are heaping extra pressures on the already stretched budgets of carers, care workers and social care services.

While the campaign says action is needed to alleviate immediate financial pressures, it is specifically calling for the Scottish Government to create a new commitment – known as a “National Outcome” – to help tackle the long-standing undervaluation of care. It comes as the Scottish Government prepares to launch its first review of Scotland’s existing 11 National Outcomes – the goals which it says describe ‘the kind of Scotland it wants to create’ – for five years.

Sara Cowan, from the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, said: “Politicians have repeatedly praised those who provide care in Scotland, but they must now embed an ambitious and measurable National Outcome on care to help drive transformative policy and spending action – and ensure progress is properly tracked.

“Care is the backbone of our society, but it is badly under-valued and suffers from chronic under-investment. This is impacting all of us, but women face the deepest consequences because they provide most paid and unpaid care.

“Alongside immediate action to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, we must end the invisibility of care and carers within Scotland’s National Outcomes so that investment in care is placed at the very heart of policy and spending priorities.”

Created by Oxfam Scotland, Carers Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, Scottish Care and One Parent Families Scotland, the joint campaign is now backed by over 45 organisations – including Carnegie UK, IPPR Scotland, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, the Minority Ethnic Carers of Older People Project, and Barnardo’s Scotland. They say the lack of a dedicated National Outcome on care ignores the foundational importance of care to the wellbeing of individuals, households, and Scotland as a whole and leaves all forms of care undervalued – whether it is on a paid or unpaid basis, for children or adults, or for people with or without additional support needs.

The people of Scotland – and particularly those with personal experience of any form of care – are now being asked to send a personalised letter to the First Minister and the other party leaders using a dedicated website – www.ascotlandthatcares.org/ – set up to make the process straightforward.

Fiona Collie, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers Scotland, said: “For too long, all forms of care have been undervalued in Scotland leaving too many people who provide care struggling without the financial and practical support they need. The pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have only made matters even worse.

“We urgently need to inject additional funds into our care services, but only by fully valuing and investing in those experiencing care, and all those providing it, can Scotland build resilience to current and future shocks. We’re urging the people of Scotland, but particularly those who live with the day-to-day realities of care, to join us in calling for Scotland’s politicians to set this new National Outcome, and then to work quickly to deliver it.” 

The campaign recognises that a range of initiatives could improve how we value and invest in care and carers in Scotland – such as a new social security entitlement for unpaid carers, additional investment in a reformed system of social care, and steps to better support low-income parents via the upcoming increase in the Scottish Child Payment.

However, it says progress is too slow and too shallow and those who rely on, or provide care are paying the price, including challenges in accessing sufficient levels of care, as well as poor working conditions, insufficient social security entitlements, and a lack of adequate respite for those who provide care. Caring is also deeply linked with poverty.

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “It’s clearer than ever that the wellbeing of our entire society depends on care but, right now, a failure to sufficiently value and invest in this care is a key barrier to ending poverty.

“The cost-of-living crisis is simply multiplying the pressures long faced by those who provide care and, while some initiatives underway in Scotland have the potential to create positive change, the invisibility of care within Scotland’s existing National Outcomes is unacceptable and must now end. The Scottish Government, with cross-party support, must use the upcoming review process to show they are fully committed to building a Scotland that cares.”

Academics at the University of the West of Scotland have developed a blueprint for a new National Outcome on care, and have identified seven ‘Beacon’ National Indicators which they say should be used to monitor progress, in addition to capturing people’s lived experience of care. They say the introduction of a dedicated National Outcome on care would make Scotland one the first countries in the world to make such an explicit commitment.

Alyson Vale, Business and Operations Director from Abbotsford Care in Fife, added: “People deserve the opportunity to receive high quality care in their local area. Scotland has a dedicated and passionate caring workforce, but we need investment from government so that we can deliver the changes needed, both now and for creating a more sustainable care system to cater for the future care needs of our nation. 

“A dedicated National Outcome on care would show that our government is committed to valuing care and those who provide care as essential to our society.”

Keeping it real: the essence of social care.

The following blog was the substance of an address given to the Highland Senior Citizens Network in Inverness on the 14th September.

I am just going to say a few words and will be using the title of your event Keeping it Real as the basis of some thoughts about what I think are the challenges but also the opportunities for aged care today and tomorrow.

People who know me well know that I am somewhat obsessed with dictionaries and the meaning of words or phrases – and so I looked up what ‘Keeping it real’ meant.

The phrase is described as being authentic, true to yourself. But what does it mean to be authentic and true to yourself?  Those were some of the thoughts I had a few weeks ago on a visit to Skye. As some of you might know my family roots are there and I was back staying with family when I discovered that the Highland Council Archive Centre in Portree – was in the final days of an exhibition which centred on the sometimes-violent disputes between crofters and their landlords in the late 19th Century. It was a great wee exhibition which not only contained the local Court Register all the way back to the 1830s but also the relevant copy of the Napier Commission report which eventually brought about a settlement to what had been the Clearances. I had not physically seen either before – and so -partly checking to see how many distant relatives had fallen foul of the law (and there were a few) I rifled through both documents.

I discovered that a direct descendant gave one of the most moving testimonies to the Napier Commission. In it he described the injustice and maltreatment at the hands of those who sought control over him and his land. He spoke for the local people and was later described as an ‘agitator.’ As I read his moving testimony, I could almost hear the cadence and rhythm of his Gaelic voice – especially when he said that ‘It would be better for Glendale (the place) that Hamara (his township) would be a lake of water than in its present condition.’

Being authentic for him (and indeed for so many who gave emotional evidence to Napier) was about being honest and true, not fake or false, not influenced by the pressure of factor or landlords, but to speak despite threat with courage and conviction. I can only admire that sense of keeping it real. It was a speaking of truth to power. It was about being true to the innate values that were those of his people and place.

And today I feel as we gather and spend time thinking about the challenges facing social care delivery in the Highlands – I think we have also to remain true, to keep being authentic to what it is which is the essence of social care, what it is which lies at the heart of what we are as a community.

No one can deny that there are enormous pressures facing us in terms of the delivery of social care in an area like the Highlands. To some extent it has always been thus. But the last few years and months have stretched the fabric of care to almost the point of breaking. Covid was hard, emotional, and traumatic, unsettling and fracturing of relationships and trust. The energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis we are currently living though has been for so many smaller providers of social care the last straw, the thing that has broken them. I hope the measures outlined by Westminster will properly address the gaps between funding need and resource availability. But we are also faced with ongoing challenges of how we respond to the workforce pressures that we know only too well, not helped by Brexit and backward migration policies, for it is a real struggle to recruit and retain the gifted women and men who are the lifeblood of what we do in an economy where the draws of hospitality, tourism and retail are so strong.

Someone asked me recently do I not get depressed or downtrodden by the realities of what I see and hear – and yes it would be a lie to say it is not challenging – but people like me have to be positive – because current challenge can and will be the platform for a response which will take us to a future which might be different from the one we envisaged but which will be of equal worth as long as we keep it real.

To deny the realities of financial restriction, of workforce, and geographical pressures would be dangerously naïve. But to allow them to be the end statement, to be the full stop of our dialogue, would be to give in and give up, and I do not recognise that as a characteristic of Highland authenticity and response.

Four things mark social care authenticity for me:

Firstly, for me being authentic about social care – keeping it real – is making sure we do not throw the baby out with the bath water. At times of fiscal and operational challenge it could and would be so easy to stop being adventurous and trying the new – to be innovative and to invest in the ingenuity of change and difference. The role of technology for instance has so much to offer social care provision in the Highlands – so this is the time to invest and be creative in how we use technology to help someone remain independent for as long as possible in their own place and to maintain their independence. How do we use technology for instance to give more authority and autonomy to frontline care workers, so that we respect their professionalism and skills? We may need to change our regulatory and oversight systems to enable more risk taking, less paperwork and audit for the sake of audit, and to start trusting the women and men who work at the careface.

Secondly for me being authentic and keeping social care real – means that we have to encourage and embed new models of delivering care and support at local level, not just on environmental sustainability grounds but for community cohesion and collective support. Increasingly I think we will have to ensure that we give people the tools of compassion and skill to support one another. We may in the future need to rely less on formal approaches. We need to invest in our communities so that they can become even more effective at delivering care at local level. But critically that needs a population and a people because ultimately buildings or organisations count for nothing unless you have people.

Thirdly for me keeping social care real, must be about the wider political and fiscal system owning up to the reality that social care is a profound economic driver and contributor to our economy not least for our rural and remote economy, and it is embarrassing that we have politicians and financiers who didn’t even include social care in the Ten-Year economic strategy which was recently published. It is time to value the women and men who work in and who use supports and care.

And lastly and maybe most importantly, keeping it real means that at a time of economic and operational challenge we must never lose the essence of social care – which is NOT about just about providing services and supports, not doing to and for someone, but allowing that person to flourish and grow, thrive, and achieve their full potential. Social care is not about maintenance it is about creativity, it is not about speaking for but enabling someone to discover their voice, it is never predictable and safe but always risk-filled and unchartered. Because social care is an enabler of life not existence- so we must urgently discover its power to prevent, to keep people independent and to help them enjoy being part of their local community as full citizens.

In the making of our tomorrows, we must never forget the ground on which we have built our culture and communities. My antecedent John Campbell complained to the Napier Commission that the land left to them by the greedy and corrupt factors was too peaty and so not able to grow anything – all he wanted – all the crofters of Skye for whom he spoke wanted – was land which was able to provide not riches unknown, but a living fulfilled.

Keeping it real for social care is first and foremost not about creating new models and systems, new structures, and edifices, even if we call them a National Care Service – but about doing what matters to the disabled crofter in a Skye glen; the youth struggling with mental health issues in Dingwall; the care home resident in Inverness fighting her dementia or the person living in Wick who has struggles with getting up in the morning.

And if we keep it real for them then we will have done all that we should.

Donald Macaskill

 

 

 

Scotland lights up in celebration of carers

To mark Homecare Day, notable buildings and landmarks across Scotland will be lit up in yellow to celebrate care at home workers and other social care staff on the evening of Thursday 22 September 2022.

Homecare Day is an online event organised by the representative body for independent social care providers in Scotland, Scottish Care. Taking place this year on Thursday 22 September, this event aims to raise awareness of the crucial role of care at home and housing support services in supporting older and vulnerable citizens across the UK.

To be able to stay in the place you call home and to remain around family, friends and community is a desire many of us have, maybe most especially when we are ill or requiring support and care. It is this independent living that thousands of homecare staff enable people to achieve every day across the UK.

Care at home staff has continued to support some of our most vulnerable people in their own homes, ensuring their health and safety whilst combatting various challenges. They provide support not only to individuals but their families too. Recent months have also seen unprecedented demand in home-based care organisations, despite this, the homecare workforce has rallied together and gone above and beyond their roles to deliver quality care.

Scottish Care, along with the Partners for Integration Team have been organising this ‘Light Up for Carers’ initiative. This campaign is supported by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Care Inspectorate. It is also supported by the SEC and Health and Social Care Partnerships/Councils for Aberdeen City, Argyll & Bute, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Scottish Borders, South Lanarkshire, and West Lothian – with the light-up taking place in these areas. Together, they are calling for social care workers, providers, partners and individuals to join in the celebrations by visiting these buildings, taking pictures and sharing them on social media with the hashtags #shinealight and #homecareday22.

The buildings and landmarks taking part will include:

  • Caird Hall – Dundee
  • Castle House/Pier – Dunoon
  • Civic Centre – Livingston
  • Falkirk Wheel – Falkirk
  • Granton Gas Tower – Edinburgh
  • Hamilton Town House – Hamilton
  • Marischal College – Aberdeen
  • McCaig’s Tower – Oban
  • Ness Bridge – Inverness
  • OVO Hydro – Glasgow
  • Scottish Borders Council HQ – Newton St Boswells
  • St Andrew’s House – Edinburgh
  • The Kelpies – Falkirk
  • Victoria Quay – Edinburgh

These structures will be lit up in the colour yellow, to symbolise the flame of a candle. This is in line with another campaign started by Scottish Care during the Covid-19 pandemic, where candles are lit every Tuesday at 7:00 pm to give thanks to all those who provide care and support during this time and in memory of all those we have lost to Covid-19.

The social care sector shows us caring, resilience and compassion at its best, yet this workforce is often undervalued. Their dedication, professionalism and commitment in delivering high-quality care every day of the week, is something that deserves to be recognised and celebrated widely. This is why campaigns like Homecare Day and Light Up for Carers are extremely important, they offer an opportunity to give recognition to the sector and their workforce.

Partners for Integration Event – 13 October

The Partners for Integration Team will be holding an online event on  Thursday 13 October, 1:00 – 4:30 pm (previously scheduled for 15 September).

This event will look at future-proofing ethical and collaborative commissioning and procurement by sharing areas of best practice. This event is predominantly focused on homecare but is open to everyone interested in joining.

To find out more, please see the flyer below. If you are interested to join this event, please contact Tracy Doyle at [email protected].

PFI Flyer 1 - 13.10.22

Fairness is a right…dementia discrimination is the reality’. 

This blog is the substance of a speech delivered to the Alzheimer Scotland conference a fortnight ago in Edinburgh and is published as part of World Alzheimer Awareness month and in recognition of world Alzheimer Day on September 21st.

Right across Scotland this morning in a child’s bedroom, in a classroom or in a playground the phrase “It isnae fair” will be heard on the lips of a face of pure innocence – usually accompanied by “It wisnae me” – Fairness even when we are children seems to be a concept with which we are instinctively familiar. And you would have hoped that if we know what being fair is all about from as it were our mother’s knee that as we mature and grow in age and life that fairness would be at the heart of our interactions with one another, would be etched into our body politic like the writing inside a stick of rock. But it clearly is not otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here about to say what I am about to say.

There isn’t a lot fair about dementia. I remember when my mother was diagnosed it was one of the first things, we all said – that a woman who had spent her life for others, who had been there for her children and neighbour, pouring out love with her cups of tea turned into tar, that the epitome of goodness should be diagnosed with this most hellish of conditions – it certainly wisnae fair. But like countless in this room and undeniably mainly through the compassion of my sister my mother got on with it and we all walked the journey of the disease towards its destination. But even in that patterning there seemed to me and to us all an intrinsic unfairness to the way she was treated – not by us or others who loved her, but by the system of health and social care. A system which made her management of her condition all the harder.

I ran an equality and human rights consultancy for over a decade and a half – in that time I witnessed and come across the most blatant forms of racial, sexual, gender and disability discrimination, even hatred. But in truth and this shames me when I see and consider the way in which as a society in Scotland, we have treated people with dementia and their allies – it is as nothing to the discriminatory treatment of those with dementia. Indeed, in a recent blog I made the statement that to live in Scotland today with dementia is to be marginalised, diminished, and ignored. And you can imagine the brickbats for that one. But I really meant and mean it. I wasn’t playing to the galleries. I was pleading for some sort of change.

Honestly – if it is not discrimination – what is the unequal treatment of people with dementia? It is three years since I and others listened to Henry McLeish the former First Minister at the launch of Alzheimer’s Scotland’s report and work on Fairness and the echoing absence of commitment, and the vacuous emptiness of rhetoric has left us with no change, not an iota of progress and that which was even promised has been pushed into the long grass of political commitments to be revisited when other priorities are attended to and other agendas fulfilled.

Let us be completely honest here and I will say this in the simplest of terms so that those with ears can hear and those too stubborn to answer can respond. If dementia is not primarily a health condition, then what is it?

Yes, dementia affects our social interaction with others, yes it affects our ability to live independently, yes it affects our ability to be a citizen in our communities – all characteristics of social care and what social care seeks to address – inclusion, participation, and voice.

But my mother’s primary needs – over and above all else – were health needs. Her brain and body were bulldozed by a condition that is first and foremost a clinical disease. So why the dickens did we have to fight and so many of you have to struggle to get a political, fiscal and societal response to dementia which is fair?

At the apex of all this is the fact that if you have health needs then your treatment and care is free at the point of delivery. Dementia not only overtakes our living and loving, but the way we have structured our response in this Scottish society means it consumes our resources, it eats up our cash and removes our assets. In very real terms and especially now when we are faced with cost of living and energy crises it impoverishes families and pushes many into a poverty of finance as well as a poverty of heart and soul. I know so many who are worrying today about how they will be able to pay for the cost of a loved one with dementia – whether in care home or in their own home. That should not be – it is obscene beyond description that we should as a society have created a divide between those who are ill, those with different long-term conditions. It is wholly unacceptable. It is not fair!

To treat someone as different – to behave in a manner which diminishes them, which deteriorates their health and wellbeing, is discrimination.  As a society we are allowed, of course to treat people differently, but must only do so if the end is justifiable and provided that we do not treat someone unfairly because of their race or disability or sexual orientation and so on.

The experience of people with dementia is discriminatory – pure and simple. As a society we rightly call out and condemn the unequal treatment of someone who is Muslim or Jewish, or a minority ethnic person, or someone who is Gay or Trans – we even accept the necessity of hate legislation to call out the perpetrators of such abuse. But what do we do when it is our societal system which allows the abuse to continue against people with dementia – because people with dementia are discriminated against on the grounds of age and gender, as well as health condition and diagnosis? I have said before that the treatment of people living with dementia because they are primarily older and by a majority female is riven with blatant age and subtle gender discrimination. What we witness every day is a lack of political and social nerve, commitment, and intention.

Fundamentally this is a human rights issue, one of the major ones of our time and generation. Human rights are not just about the big macro things which impact on our society, they are not just about the way those outside our country are treated. Scotland is on the cusp of creating a new human rights legislation and we have a tremendous opportunity to do things differently and to truly walk the talk about human rights and dementia. For human rights to mean something more than simple words, they must come alive in the ordinariness of our loving and living. Where dementia is concerned human rights seem if not dead at least absent – it is time to resuscitate our commitment to making Scotland a human rights society, and to give new life to dementia strategies that don’t just pay lip service to human rights and think that by mentioning them the task is completed – we need to embed, enact and let our rights flourish. We need to act to make human rights real for dementia.

Fairness when you look at it in the dictionary has a range of meanings – yes it means to treat someone with impartiality, to be even handed and respectful but it also in its Old English derivation and in Old Scots has a sense of ‘beauty’ about it. Something which is fair is considered to be a thing of beauty. To stretch this somewhat there is something beauty about acting in a way which is equal, which considers that the treatment of individuals with dementia and their kin, should be about equality, free from bias and discrimination, of age or condition; that it should be about their human rights. There is something beautiful about equality – but what we have in the current system is not beauty but the ugliness of discrimination, of partiality and victimisation of a condition and those affected by it.

We can wait for others to wake up and finally listen, or we can together act, demonstrate, shout and campaign with even greater vigour. We have to recognise we have power, voice and ability beyond that which we know and that together we can and do make a difference. Human rights, equality, challenging discrimination does not happen on paper it happens in the hearts and minds of people; it happens when we work together to challenge the wrong. And this is all wrong. There is no alternative – for people like my mother now long gone, and for countess now living and those yet to struggle with dementia we have no alternative but to join with others to say ‘This isnae Fair’ and its time to stop!

Donald Macaskill

Care Technologist Phase 3 Pilot

Scottish Care are trialling a new Care Technologist role in care at home and care home settings in a 12 month, TEC funded Test of Change.

Following a successful 6-month trial with SRS Specialist Resource Solutions in Aberdeen, the Care Technologist project is extending to 2 further geographical areas – East Ayrshire and Glasgow, and the scope now includes Care Homes and Daycare services.

This Homecare Day 2022, we will be hosting a digital drop-in session for anyone interested to know more about the project and meet the Care Technologists, Katherine Long, Dan Plant and Cheryl Stevenson. This will take place online, 2pm – 3pm on Thursday 22nd September.

‘Join our first Digital Drop-in session here’

We are currently working with Baillieston Community Care, HRM Homecare, SRS Specialist Resource Solutions and care homes represented by Scottish Care to trial the role.

David Reilly, CEO of Baillieston Community Care said: 

“We are absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Care Technologist Project with Scottish Care, and having a Care Technologist working within our organisation. We see technology playing such an important role in the future of Social Care, supporting our workforce and ensuring the best possible outcomes for the people we support. We look forward to the year ahead and seeing the impact that this project will have on the people we support, their families and our staff.”

Lynn Laughland, Managing Director of HRM Homecare Services said:

“At HRM Homecare Services, we are enthusiastic about bringing the role of a Care Technologist into our business and being part of this project with Scottish Care. Digitalisation is important to the growth of the Care Sector, and the benefits of technology can help to support people who access care by ensuring their needs are nurtured through the implementation of appropriate technologies. We are excited and encouraged by the role of Care Technologist and believe this is the right step forward for the Scottish Social Care Sector.”

For more information about the role, our strategy and how we are helping people to live well, you can read more about the Care Technologist below.

https://scottishcare.org/the-care-technologist-project/

If you would like to stay up to date with the progress of the project, you can sign up to receive updates via email or drop-in to one of our online sessions which take place monthly. You can opt-in to either of these by getting in touch below.

Katherine (Care Technologist Lead and care home delivery): [email protected]

 the other side of memory…

One of the consequences of writing a weekly blog is that it comes round inexorably every week. It also means that you cannot really avoid the events and what has happened in the week that has passed. That said I had decided not to write this blog today up until a few moments ago, not least as there have been so many words, memories and thoughts shared about the death of Her Majesty the Queen. But having spoken to a few folks and having read so much on social media, the traditional press and watched so much television I have been struck by a few thoughts and want briefly to share them.

Social media can be especially cruel and notwithstanding the fact that there is a very real diversity of opinion around the role of the monarchy what has surprised and also saddened me is the frequency of comments relating to the fact that we should mourn less the death of someone who reached the age of 96 compared to someone who was younger. I come across this all the time, indeed virtually every day. The inevitability of working in the care sector around and with older people is that death in latter age and very old age is natural. Associated with that is an ageist societal assumption that because someone is older that their death is of less value or significance and more than that that the sense of loss and grief and emptiness on the part of those who are left should be by consequence less severe. Too often have I come across people in their twenties or thirties made to feel guilty that they are struggling with the loss of a grandparent in their nineties. Such a presumption makes a mockery of the reality that when we lose someone we love the longer the length of that relationship the deeper the well of emptiness and the depth of sadness we mine. Tears are no less strong, the pain of not seeing that familiar face, the echoing absence of presence is no less diminished and intense simply because someone has reached a very old age. They still had so much to give and share, so much to achieve and be, that their absence is as acute as the loss of someone much younger. I think it is simply wrong for so many today to point to a life well lived and a long and healthy one and to somehow impugn that the pain of grief should by consequence be dictated by the chronology of time

The second brief observation I want to make is that I have been surprised by how much I have been personally touched by the death of the Queen. I am by no means the only one who has mentioned this or spoken of the sense of being caught out by the sadness of the hour. One of the main reasons for this, I suspect, for me is that her death has brought to mind the memories of my own parents now long gone and of grandparents even longer away from me. I have reflected on the struggles they had and the death of the Queen as one of the last of a generation who shared their days of history through war and renewal, has resonated deeply. There is a sense for many of us that a touchstone, a cairn of memory and moment, the security of a presence that affirms familiarity and belonging has passed with the death of the Queen. We need I think as a whole society to acknowledge the sense of individual grief people are feeling at this moment, not just for their sense of losing the Queen, but for the fact that her death has opened up for many of us memories of those important to us who are now longer alive. It is rare for the death of someone else to bring home the rawness and questions of our own grief, and such feelings need to be held and supported by the love of those around us and by the awareness of the wider community. The death of the Queen has made many of us face up to our own work of grief and so many of us are ill equipped for that journey. We will in the days and weeks ahead be faced with a collective and personal grieving which will require communal understanding and love.

Lastly – and this may be somewhat ironic given you have read up to this point – there have been so many words written and said, television programmes and films aired about the life of the Queen over the last two days and this will doubtless continue up until the State Funeral. It is only right, I think, that as a society we will continue to focus on memory and loss, recollection and insight, but I really hope we get some space to be silent, to grieve and to be quiet, that we can all be given space simply to be on their own, apart from the commentary and comment, cocooned from the sounds and words, alone from the sights of flickering film and footage.

A funeral is a marker and a moment, a ritual of remembering which even for someone we only know as an anchor in our communal togetherness, needs to be a time and a day apart from all others. The funeral of the Queen will touch so many people in such diverse ways. I really hope that we all of us have the chance to find a space or place to nestle into our grieving for whomever we are grieving; I hope we can find a way in which we are able to be supported and loved in our hurting; I hope that those living in the face of a dying loved one find the ability to be present with that person; that those who have in these days lost someone important to them have the sense that their death is as valued as the mourned one society is focussing on;  because when all the words are spoken, all the cameras are shut off, all the people wander off to the ordinariness of living, when friends return to their own lives, the bereaved are left to the emptiness of absence, to a room unfilled with love… it is then we must be present to hold each other up and that is even harder if the days before that moment are as full as they have been.

 

 the other side of memory…

 I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those days that we have shared;

when you brought a bright spark

to cold and damp monotony;

when we collapsed in side-splitting laughter

about the nothing things of life;

when we listened to a piece of music

and tears sounded to its rhythm.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those faces that we have watched;

the fearful thrill of cradling life

as young new-born parents;

the certainty of adult doubt

as teenagers looked for answers;

the aching loss as the bone of our beginning

shrouded itself into the earth.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those places we have wandered;

the homes that we have furnished

with the love of our welcoming;

the journeys we have made

whose destination was beyond a horizon;

the hearts and lives we have changed

though we were blind to the knowing.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those graces we have been given;

the gentle glimpse of your hand,

open to share and bring comfort;

the smile which put at ease the stranger

and made them a friend for life;

the timbre of your content

as music filled a room;

the fragility of your strength,

from knowing Love in our midst.

 

I open my eyes and recognise…

 

that as the sun sets on this day,

as dusk scatters light

into the encroaching dark;

so somewhere,

on the other side of memory,

you are there.

 

And in that place beyond all sense

the sun is already shining,

the light is growing,

as the dawn of new beginning

aches its way through love’s pain

and loss’s mourning.

 

I open my eyes and see

that you and I are

both here and there,

both memory and future;

 

a life lived,

a love shared,

a beginning started,

a light rising,

over there

on the other side of memory.

 

Donald Macaskill

Partners for Integration Event – CANCELLED

In light of the sad news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as a mark of respect, we will not be going ahead with the Partners for Integration Event – Future-proofing ethical and collaborative commissioning and procurement by sharing areas of best practice. This online event was due to take place next week on Thursday 15 September.

Our thoughts and condolences are with the Royal Family and everyone who knew and loved her at this very difficult time. We will make an announcement to any future arrangements regarding this event once we are able to.

Scottish Care CEO responds to energy plans

Scottish Care CEO, Dr Donald Macaskill, responds to the Prime Minister’s speech on the Government’s plan for energy bills. He said:

“The announcement of a 6-month freeze in energy costs for businesses by the Prime Minister is to be welcomed. The devil in all such statements is in the detail. We note that there will be a requirement to review this support after a 3-month period and that there is a probability that this will target vulnerable businesses. The very nature of the care home and homecare sector is that it is one of the most vulnerable sectors and we will continue to argue strongly to the UK and Scottish Government ministers that emergency priority must be given to the care sector to ensure that those who use social care services, who are amongst our most critical citizens, will be adequately supported over the next years of energy uncertainty.”