If one of your loved ones has been diagnosed with an illness like dementia or Parkinson's then you'll know how it can knock you for six. As these terrible, all-consuming illnesses progress, people across the country come to rely on homecare workers. They care for our loved ones when we're struggling to cope, and allow those caring for family members to go out to work. They're the ones we trust to care when we aren't there.
But homecare in the UK is being destroyed by the government's local government spending cuts - and the impact on those in need of care - as well as those providing it - is profound. Here's what one homecare worker told us: "I had a user who was receiving end of life care. The lady had terrible diarrhoea and was covered in faeces. I found myself extremely stressed as I had very little time to give to the lady the care she deserved and comfort her husband who needed some time and who was in tears. It was just awful."
And this isn't an isolated case - far from it. Too many homecare workers tell us similar stories of how they have to face unmanageable problems and unworkable situations simply because they are not given enough time to provide dignified levels of care for the elderly and disabled people they look after.
The huge cuts made by the government to social care budgets are having catastrophic effects on both homecare users and homecare workers. Unison research has shown that spending on homecare has dropped by 19.4% since 2010/11, falling by £435million from £2.25billion to £1.815billion.
A Unison report published today, 'Suffering Alone at Home', reveals that a staggering 74% of councils in England still use 15-minute slots for homecare visits for the elderly and disabled.
A simultaneous survey of homecare workers, which also features in our new report, shows that 74% of them don't feel they have enough time to provide dignified care for their service users, 58% confirmed that they have been given just 15 minutes or less to deliver personal care for homecare users, and 61% said that they were not given enough time to provide dignified personal care to service users aged over 90 years old.
How often in your life have you managed to get out of bed, washed, fed and ready for the day in just 15 minutes? Yet thousands of elderly and disabled people with serious health conditions such as dementia, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis are given this measly amount of time to try and do the same thing, with the help of poorly treated and overstretched care workers.
While the government makes much play of paying tribute to the sacrifices and efforts of the generation who fought in the Second World War, it condemns many of that same generation who rely on homecare to a life of misery because of the way that they have slashed funding for care services.
A staggering 85% of our homecare workers surveyed said they do not even have enough time for a conversation with the people they are caring for. If how we care for those in the greatest need is how we should be judged as a country, then this casts modern Britain in a very poor light.
Unison firmly believes that we need to demand better treatment for our care users and workers and ensure that the government provides decent funding to provide decent care services.
MPs should be asking that the Department of Health provide additional funding to local councils to supplement the Better Care Fund and any money raised from the social care precept. They should also ask the Department of Health to bring forward the awarding of the Better Care Fund monies announced in the Spending Review from 2017 to this year, to stop this crisis in its tracks.
Without more funding, homecare users and workers will be subject to even more suffering. This is how one homecare worker described how it feels to do the job right now:
"Guilt. That is what you feel. I am not in this type of work just for a wage. I want to make a difference to people, more so those who have no one. I want to let them know there are people who care. It's not all work. We all matter at the end of the day. That will be me one day. And God help us if it keeps going the way it's going today. Because there is no care left in the community from what I witness now"
The work that our care workers do, even in these impossible circumstances, is incredible. But it's impossible to read these stories and not wish for a proper solution to our care crisis. That will require money and political will to achieve. I hope that these are not in too short a supply to help a generation of people to whom we owe so much.Suggest a correction