If we’ve learned anything, it’s that care for the elderly should be on the government’s agenda.

When Covid-19 first hit the shores of the UK, nobody believed that we were in for a worldwide pandemic that would irrevocably change all of our lives.

As the death toll and the number of confirmed cases began to rise exponentially, that false sense of superiority, the idea that ‘we won’t catch it’, began to fade as people started to see the very real consequences of a highly infectious virus running rife through a population.

The real wake-up call, however, was undoubtedly the importance of a well-funded health care system, available to all regardless of class or creed.

Furthermore, as Covid-19 has forced us to adapt and rethink our way of life, it’s also highlighted some of the failings within the systems in place.

Of course, one of the most prominent of these failings is the deterioration of the NHS due to years of cut-funding, talent being apprehensive to work in the UK due to Brexit, and existing talent in the UK being offered better opportunities in other Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand and Canada.

Covid-19 and the ramifications of it have outlined the current ineptitude of the health service in the UK— but also highlighted the dedication and proficiency of an undervalued staff.

However, whilst we can consider how the NHS was not prepared to deal with a pandemic, and the complete miracle that it still stands, another question looms in the not-so-distant future:

What else has Covid-19 shown us that needs changing in the UK health service for future generations?

Better Care for the Elderly

Covid-19 has clearly shown that elderly citizens are most susceptible to becoming incredibly sick, and the most likely group to succumb to such viruses.

In an effort to shield these vulnerable groups, many care homes opted to go into ‘lockdowns’, with the families of residents unable to visit their loved ones (read Get Informed: Experts Share Best Practices in Care During the Pandemic for tips on how you can maximise the safety of those who are living in Care during Covid-19).

Of course, this is an extreme reaction due to unprecedented times, but it has highlighted the need for change, more specifically, the need for more options when it comes to elderly care.

Care Homes and Residential Homes can be great options for many families, and many of the residents find community and companionship with their fellow residents.

However, what about the elderly who / whose family cannot afford to pay for such services and don’t want to give up the comfort of their own home?

Or furthermore, what if they have developed dementia or other mental impairments that not only strip them of their independence but cause a lot of emotional turmoil for family members who struggle to cope?

The majority of dementia patients live in Care / Residential Homes, however numerous studies and charities have warned that this type of living is not ideal for such patients and that in many cases, their quality of life is inadequate.

What are the Other Options?

Recently, a petition started circulating in the UK gaining signatures for the government to invest in ‘Dementia Villages’, an enclosed residency that simulates normal everyday life by having amenities such as a ‘shop’ and ‘post-office’ with specially trained staff to offer dementia patients a dignified and somewhat independent existence, with the necessary help always at hand.

Furthermore, live-in dementia care could also be a worthy investment for the government to improve health services for the elderly. It offers dementia patients the opportunity to stay in the homes that they love whilst getting the necessary full-time professional care that they need.

For the elderly who don’t need any extra help due to impairments such as dementia, sheltered housing is another option to offer them a more independent lifestyle.

Though the general idea of sheltered housing is that no medical or caring facilities are included, there are alarm systems and people employed within the complex who are there to make arrangements for repairs — which is something that a lot of elderly who live alone often neglect; not through any fault of their own, often it’s because they don’t know who to contact and thus leave it be.

Ultimately, we need to listen to our ageing population and understand their needs. From here we can create a system that offers different types of care to ensure our elderly not only have an adequate quality of life — but a good one.