And the pressure on a system in crisis is also taking its toll on homecare workers themselves.
Today the charity is urging the public to sign its petition asking Government to tackle a broken homecare system as part of its Fix Dementia Care campaign. The petition calls for funding for training to counteract years of cuts to social care budgets and to ensure the workforce have the skills to provide dementia care that’s needed.
Susie Woodman said: “I would be lost without the work of home carers due to living some distance from my parents. I am determined to keep them in their family home in Harborne that they have lived in for the last 50 years for as long as it’s safe for them. They both have a form of dementia and have domiciliary carers that visit multiple times a day. The carers will do at least 2 to 3 hour shifts and they work hard in that period of time: I sometimes wonder how anything would be achieved in a half hour visit from social services.
“I think home care could be improved through carers having better training, especially around dementia and some aspects of basic first aid. They need to be able to understand what people with dementia are going through. Importantly, better briefing and co-ordination between carers could also be improved as sometimes information is not passed on and it falls to me to act as care co-ordinator.”
The investigation involved a survey of homecare workers with Unison, research into the sector with Skills for Care, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all local authorities in England, and a survey of over 1220 people affected by dementia to gather first-hand testimonies about homecare.
More than 400,000 people with dementia are believed to receive homecare and there are 520,000 homecare workers – more than the NHS total of Doctors, GPs and Nursing staff (506,000). Yet more than one in three (38%)* homecare workers have no dementia training and the majority (71%)** do not receive dementia training that is accredited.
Some 43% of homecare workers have asked for further dementia training. However, in more than half (54%) of those cases this was turned down***. Without this vital training, carers fail to understand the unique nature of dementia or the impact of the symptoms, and cannot deliver person-centred, quality care in the time constraints they are working under. In fact, 86% of homecare workers agreed that further dementia training would help them to provide better care for people with dementia****.
The findings come in the wake of a recent report published by the United Kingdom Home Care Association, which highlighted ‘widespread and systematic underfunding of homecare services’. The organisation has accused local authorities of ‘short-changing’ those who rely on home care services, and recommends pay rates should be a minimum of £16.70 per hour. In Birmingham and the West Midlands, however, the average hourly rate is just £14.30.
Maria Parkes, Services Manager for Alzheimer’s Society in Birmingham and Solihull said: “Although we are aware of some excellent service providers, there is simply not enough money invested in the social care system. Homecare workers are crying out for more dementia training – without it their hands are tied behind their backs. From the scandals exposed, it is clear they are not fairly or adequately equipped with the skills they need to support vulnerable people with complex needs. We need the Government to support empowered and well-trained homecare workers who can transform dementia care in this country, allowing people to live independently and in their own homes for longer.”