Social care services are crucial to ensuring elderly and disabled people can remain independent, allowing them to stay in their homes and out of hospital. At present, pensioners are being forced to stay in hospital simply because there is no space available for them in care homes, or their own homes are unsuitable.
I notice a difference in him immediately. His blue eyes are less focused, and he looks confused when he first sees me. As if he's thinking "I know that girl, but I just can't place her". His soft, wrinkled hands are shaky when he grasps mine in his, as I help him up from his chair. His smile is wide, but uncertain.
Lonely. The word hit me like a dull blow down the phone line. For a man of his years to admit to loneliness to someone he had not met and hardly spoken to before seemed beyond belief. I know elderly men: my grandfathers and their peers don't 'do' emotion, and would balk at sharing them - even with their nearest and dearest, let alone a stranger.
All too often people put care and retirement living in the 'too difficult' box and just don't think about it until they really have to. The misperception is that it's a care home or nothing. And what that can mean is people end up at crisis point, with no idea of the options open to them, and make a rushed decision under pressure.
Although it seems a lifetime ago, it feels like yesterday. Time doesn't heal; it just makes grief go out of focus. And anything can bring it sharply back again: a photograph, a scent, a memory or just the endless yearning pall of homesickness so familiar to people who've lost their parents too early.