I’ve just been reading about another local care home found to be way below the standards expected. As usual it was complaints from angry family members that finally blew the whistle on this particular establishment.

Having a loved one in care is a real worry I had some exposure to the care system with Betty, my elderly mother-in-law, and while my experience was largely good I could clearly see the strain on those involved.

Betty’s ‘care package’ required a personal carer to visit her in her own home three times each day. For the carer it can be really difficult if the person needing care is resistant or argumentative.

Betty’s carer had a diary to complete after each 20-minute visit and was required to phone her office and report her progress.

The carer also had to provide her own transport and would often arrive soaking wet as she had no car and walked from one address to another. She earned little more than minimum wage and was not paid for the time she spent walking between jobs.

For this she was expected to be punctual, take care of safety and hygiene matters, make a small lunch, check Betty’s medication, complete the diary, report in to her boss and hurry off to her next call without being late.

Betty wasn’t a difficult lady but many elderly people losing their independence can be quite confrontational, particularly in their own home.

Carers are expected to deal with this in a compassionate and professional way. Any momentary slip and the family will be complaining of their ‘uncaring’ attitude.

No wonder there isn’t a queue of highly-qualified care staff queuing up for a job that pays little more than minimum wage, monitors your every move and demands you show the utmost respect at all times despite provocation.

When Betty entered full-time residential care she paid for and received excellent care. She had a lovely private room, good qualified staff, excellent dining facilities and attractive surroundings.

But Betty’s care cost £900 per week and families are reluctant to pay that even if their loved one has the money to do so.

As a result they end up with ‘dubious’ care in establishments straining to meet minimum standards.

We need to have an open and honest discussion on care expectations and what they actually cost. It’s no good councils contracting out the care if that ‘care’ is substandard.

Councils across the country are dishing out contracts to organisations to provide high quality care at low quality cost and blaming them when it all goes wrong.

It’s time to face the music. Precisely what quality of care do we want for our loved ones and are we prepared to pay the appropriate price?


I took my old friend Tommy out for lunch today. He always has some mad stories to tell and he’s very entertaining although that’s not his intention.

“Don’t get in any trouble,” said Mrs B as I left home like I was about to rob NatWest.

‘Last time you went out with Tommy, you fell over a chain link fence and came home with the backside hanging out of your trousers.”

I left feeling belittled by my own wife.

I told Tommy about it over lunch.

“Yeah, they’re like elephants.”

“Who are?”


“My wife’s not like an elephant. Elephants are easy to please.”

‘Yes but they never forget do they?”

He had a point there.

During lunch I nipped to the loo and a guy that was exiting let go of the door on my hand. It closed with a thwack and the only thing that saved my fingers was my wedding ring, which took the full weight of the door.

Only problem was my ‘ring’ was now an ellipse making it impossible to remove.

“Don’t worry I can get that off you when we get home,” said Tommy tucking into fish pie.

I wasn’t overly concerned until my ring-finger went numb at which point I suggested I drop Tommy off at home where he could work his ‘magic’ and remove the crushed ring.

“Right this’ll fix it,” said Tommy applying a generous amount of Fairy Liquid.

“Is that your plan?”

“Yes and it works like magic.”

“Tommy, all the fairies in that bottle wont enable a half-centimetre wide ring to slip over a knuckle the size of a conker.”

Tommy’s next idea was to ‘squeeze’ the ring back into shape with pliers. The only flaw in this plan was the pliers slipped off the ring and grabbed my swollen finger.

“Right this’ll definitely do it,” he said tapping at the ring with a hammer.

At this point I made a hasty retreat to a jeweller who cut the ring off for me.

“Did you enjoy your lunch? Asked Mrs B when I arrived home.

“Err...yes, except I got my wedding ring stuck in a toilet door and my knuckle turned blue so Tommy grabbed it with a set of pliers and hit it with a hammer.

Mrs B rolled her eyes in a very demeaning manner.

“I don’t suppose you got Nora Batty to kiss it better, did you?”

If you have a story you would like me to look at, email me at vicbarlow@icloud.com or text me on 07590 560012.

By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow