Letter: A society unable to repay its debt

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The Independent Online
From Ms Rachelle Gold

Sir: The lack of money for state-funded care of the elderly which Polly Toynbee describes in her article today ("Turfing out the elderly in Middle England", 26 May) has other facets in addition to the experiences she describes.

My grandmother worked as a single woman, and raised a family once married. She and her late husband paid their taxes and never asked the state for a penny. As she became a senior citizen and qualified for a state pension, her children helped to support her as this pension was barely adequate. Her only "asset" is a one-bedroom flat.

About three years ago, she was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease. Both my parents work full-time and her other child lives in Australia so there is no family member available to look after her during the day.

She has ended up in hospital twice in the past year as a direct result of forgetting to take her medication but is always discharged once she is "better", as the local hospital says that all she needs to do is take her medicines. Because she is mentally incapable of saying that she actively wants to go into residential care, her local social services refuse to do more than send round a care assistant for an hour each weekday and arrange a lunchtime meal each day from Meals on Wheels

To place her in a private residential care home will cost her children around pounds 600 per week, which they cannot afford. They have just, after many letters and telephone calls over the past year, managed to persuade social services to undertake a second psycho-geriatric assessment in the hope that this might help cut through the impasse and secure her the level of care which she needs and to which we believe she is entitled.

The strain of this situation on my family is immense, particularly on her son, my father. We have all been brought up to work hard and pay our taxes, and have trusted in the government to ensure that, if the worst came to the worst and we had to ask for help, the services would be there. Not only have the services gone AWOL; so, it would seem, has the money to restore them. Why should we bother to contribute our time, money and energies to a society which doesn't live up to its side of the bargain or changes the terms of that bargain without letting any of us know?

Yours faithfully,

RACHELLE GOLD

London, W1

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