My dad died earlier today.
He had been unwell with lung cancer since Christmas. After a stay in hospital he wanted to stay at home and we arranged for him to have home visits four times a day through the local council. After a few weeks, though, dad fell over a couple of times and ended up back in hospital. By this time, he’d lost his confidence and went downhill pretty quickly.
After much effort and negotiation with a local discharge nurse, we helped him move to a fantastic nursing home where his place was funded by Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding. We made sure he had all the personal possessions he wanted around him, visited as much as we could, and watched as he got to know the staff and his new surroundings.
Then, over the last few days, the inevitable happened and, after getting a chest infection, he died at around 9am.
My dad – in fact, he’s my granddad (I was adopted in 1985, when I was 5 years old) – was a kind man who did the very best for me. I can’t say that I knew him very well, but I can say that I loved him and that I will miss him. His belief in reading and education – opportunities he didn’t have after leaving school at 14 in 1942 – was a belief he passed onto me and encouraged me to pursue, for which I will be forever grateful.
Over the last few months, we’ve done the very best for my dad. In many ways, we were very lucky in the things we managed to put in place – through haranguing and negotiating and persevering and believing. We came across some pretty depressing attitudes at times, but also met some of the most caring, warm-hearted and compassionate professionals I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.
And so, really, to the point of this post.
I work in social care and my wife will not stop until something is sorted. We were about as well equipped as it’s possible to be when my dad’s health took a turn for the worse, and yet we were essentially lucky that my dad’s last few weeks were as good as they were.
Goodness knows the social care system is far from perfect, as the coverage of the last few weeks will attest. But I believe that it has the potential to provide excellent care and support for everyone, if only they are supported, know how to access it and to have control over the process and the care they receive.
What drives me, the organisation I work for and hundreds of others like us, is ensuring that everyone has the best chance of being as fortunate as my dad was at the time they need it most – not just in social care, but from public services in general.
This is what I’ll work to achieve, in memory of my dad who equipped me to try my best to do this.