Helen Martin: Come clean and help hero Peter

THE very old and the very young have a lot in common. They both need looking after. The very young have no concept of dignity or hygiene, lessons they still have to learn. But the elderly have memories of a time when they were young and virile, active, energetic and strong, times they will never see again. And that can make asking for help very difficult.

Not so in the case of widower Peter Rogan, 86, an old soldier from Prestonfield. Despite having an artificial hip and knees, limited mobility with the aid of a stick, diabetes, chest pains, and being on a cocktail of painkillers, he wants to maintain a smart appearance and a good standard of personal cleanliness. But he can't get in and out of the bath unaided or use the overhead shower.

On 12 August his GP referred him to Edinburgh's social care team but he has recently been informed – only after he rang to question the delay – that he won't even be assessed until the end of October.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokesman for the council said: "Due to limited resources we cannot assess everyone as quickly as we would like."

As a response it is not only unhelpful but completely irrelevant. When the council "would like" to fulfil its obligation of care is of no import whatsoever, because Peter needs a shower now.

He hasn't put in an application to build a conservatory or asked for a new blue recycling box, either of which could easily and harmlessly lie in an in-tray for weeks.

The care needs of the elderly change from day to day, requiring rapid response, and social care that could, on the current evidence, take up to ten weeks to be delivered is not really care at all.

Who will be held responsible if, driven by desperation, Peter decides to try to get in and out of the bath himself, or enlists the help of an untrained friend or neighbour, and has an accident?

During his waiting time Peter was admitted to hospital with a chest complaint. I'm curious as to why, at his age and with his problems, he was sent home without a care package already in place, but that may be another story.

I'm also curious about how social services would view a parent's duty of care if they heard of a child who hadn't been given a bath or a shower for ten weeks.

Councils can't do everything immediately, especially in times of financial restraint. But some functions are more urgent than others. Personal hygiene is important to Peter. He kept himself as clean as possible during the battle of El Alamein, for goodness sake!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Today, although he tries his best to wash where he can at the sink, the idea that he is dirty and neglected has left Peter feeling degraded and depressed, hardly a recipe for success when so much effort is supposed to be going into keeping old people living "independently" in their own house rather than being shuffled into care homes.

This may not be the fault of the care team. The blame may lie higher up the food chain with the councillors and officials who work out the budget on which they have to operate.

But something is seriously wrong with the priorities if trams, cycle corridors, and entering (and being beaten in) Britain in Bloom competitions – to name but three money-suckers – come before essential services to vulnerable ratepayers.

Newspapers live by an adage that councils would do well to emulate. People . . . it's all about people.

If this is the best Edinburgh can do on social care, I'm Mother Teresa.

WHEN author Fay Weldon suggested it took less effort for women to do household chores than to persuade husbands to help she set off a train of marital debate around the country, not least "chez nous".

Thus inspired, Himself decided to offer breakfast in bed last Saturday, not an isolated event but one into which he put extra effort.

He'd heard of "cheffie" towers and produced a slice of fried haggis, topped with a poached egg and a spire of crispy bacon rashers surrounded by sauted mushrooms and a spot of black pudding, which was miraculous really, as I didn't know we had any black pud in the fridge.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

You can imagine my delight. I plunged my fork into the pud and popped it in my mouth.

It took a few seconds for the penny to drop, then I leapt out of bed, shot into the bathroom, spat it in the bowl and grabbed the mouthwash.

"Where exactly did you find this black pudding?" I spluttered, puce-faced when I got back to the boudoir. "It was in with the mushrooms," he said.

"That's because it was compost!" I shrieked.

I'm still trying to work out whether or not it was a mistake or a deliberate ploy to prove that man's place on a weekend morning is on the golf course.