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Separating Elderly Couples in Care is Inhumane

How can you protect yourself?

Separating Elderly Couples in Care is Inhumane

It's scary that Social Care leaders actually had to be told at a recent conference that separating elderly couples in care is inhumane.

In what sounds like a statement of the bloomin’ obvious to the rest of us, Britain’s most senior Family Law Judge actually had to tell social care bosses that putting frail elderly couples into separate care homes is inhumane.

Sir James Munby, head of the Family Courts expressed his “personal outrage” to a conference of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care Services, and declared that separating elderly couples in this way can cause death from a broken heart.

"We do know that people die of a broken heart” said Sir James. “I have read of cases where one person died and then the other dies a couple of days later. How long do people last if they are uprooted? A very short time." 

And he’s right; dying of a broken heart is actually a thing. Broken Heart Syndrome, technically termed cardiomyopathy, is a real condition that can kill you. The shock of separation from the person closest to you can weaken your heart and double your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Better to be happy than safe?

Sir James urged social care leaders to adopt a common-sense approach, and that separating an older person from the people they love should be the last resort.

"Where one is debating whether somebody should be uprooted – I use that word deliberately – and put in some residential placement which we think is better, that almost always involves a severance with place and people and things,”

He railed against infantilising older people once in care, foisting healthy lifestyle changes on them and making them take part in group social activities they don't enjoy.

 "You are actually putting someone in a regime which may not allow them to smoke, or a regime where for their own good they may be required or heavily persuaded to indulge in the kind of collective jollification which they would have loathed at home.”

He called for less emphasis on health and safety if 'uprooting' an older person simply made them miserable, urging social care leaders to think twice about “putting them in some nice modern building which no doubt satisfies the building inspector but is simply not home to them."

Chilling that they had to be told

How chilling that this had to be pointed out to the very people in charge of older people’s care.

Is there a culture of viewing an older person as no more than a collection of “social care needs” on a checklist?

Have social care professionals lost sight of the fact that it’s human beings with feelings, lives and families they’re dealing with?

How to protect yourself

If this is the culture we're up against, then taking personal action to protect ourselves becomes a priority.

If you – or your Mum or Dad – were ever in this position, how would you feel about being parcelled off to a strange place, separated from the person you’ve loved and lived with for decades? What if the thought of weekly line-dancing or bingo would leave you – or them - cold? And lots of us know at least one older person who’d be thoroughly fed-up without their daily pack of Capstan Full Strength or few tots of whisky.

The key to making sure your wishes are respected – whether that’s insisting that you’re never separated from your spouse, or that nobody gets to stop you doing the things you enjoy – is to make your Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.

Use this type of Power of Attorney to give people – like your spouse and your adult children – the legal authority to speak up for you if you lose the capacity to stand up for yourself. Social care professionals are obliged to listen to, and accommodate, the views of people you appoint as your Attorneys for Health and Welfare. It gives your Attorneys real power to make sure your wishes and preferences as a human being are respected, and that your happiness is given every bit as much priority as your health & safety.

For help and advice with using Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health & Welfare to protect your human rights, call us on 0151 601 5399 or complete the contact form below. We’re here to help.

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