NEGLECT and loneliness for elderly residents is a concerning prospect for the future, says Solihull Council.
The council says that neglect was the biggest issue nationally over the last two years and has troubled many local authorities.
In Solihull, 200 cases of neglect or acts of omission were investigated in 2016/17.
Numbers of elderly residents facing neglect are set to increase exponentially according to the Draft Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) for 2017/18.
Solihull has a heavily ageing population, the wider implications of which include a likely increase in demand for voluntary and community services, rising numbers of carers and increased risk of social isolation and loneliness.
Latest figures show nearly 10,500 aged 75 plus live alone, with this estimated to increase by a further 39 per cent by 2030 to over 14,500.
By 2030, around 1,570 of those aged 65 or over are projected to suffer from severe depression – an increase of 340 on 2017.
Recent work by the Council with Skills for Care estimates that the health and care workforce in Solihull is 5,900.
Their projections estimate that this will need to rise by around 21 per cent over the next 10 years to meet increased demand for care from the ageing population.
However concerns have been raised recently about the scrapping of the half-a-million fund for the voluntary sector in Solihull which could limit its capabilities in the future.
According to the draft JSNA, performance in Solihull is worse than the national average for long-term support needs of older adults (aged 65 and over) by residential and nursing care homes, (per 100,000 population).
An estimated 10 per cent of people nationally aged 65 plus are intensely lonely and 20 per cent are mildly lonely, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness.
In Solihull this equates to approximately 4,000 people being intensely lonely and 9,000 people being mildly lonely.
As the population of Solihull ages these numbers are likely to rise dramatically and problems with neglect to become more prescient.
Anne Hasting, chief executive of Age UK Solihull said: “Loneliness in older people is a deeply troubling issue and it is clear that Age UK’s ‘No one should have no one’ campaign has touched the hearts of many people in Solihull.
“Of the 80 new volunteers who joined Age UK Solihull last year, 58 of them wanted to support our work in combatting loneliness through our Linking People Together service (supported by Solihull Council), with one-to-one support in the home , helping out at our clubs or helping to transport people to and from activities and clubs that help keep them linked to their local communities.
“Our volunteers provided support to 105 of the most vulnerable older people in their own homes last year, helping to ensure they are not among those whose lives are blighted by loneliness.
“We are pleased to work closely with Solihull MBC’s Adult Social Care and Public Health to alleviate loneliness and social isolation, which is now widely recognised as having a higher detriment to health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking to excess.”
Councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “Neglect of adults with care and support needs can sadly be very wide ranging.
“As a Council we continue to work hard to raise awareness of this issue, with both professionals and residents across Solihull, whilst also highlighting how to report it.”
Age UK provided a case study of an unnamed lady in Solihull who suffers loneliness as a daily reality.
“A lady in North Solihull was referred to Age UK Solihull’s Linking People Service by a good friend, who used to visit her regularly, but his situation was changing and he would not be able to see so much of her.
“The lady has not been out of her home for five years, has a lot of health issues, lives in one room and need help from carers to get her out of bed each day and then she sits in the chair by the window and watches the world go by.
“She has a television which she enjoys, but it is not the same as spending time with other people, and consequently she feels isolated, depressed and has said she did not see how she could carry on, having lost her Mum 10 years ago and then her son more recently.
“She felt that the world and everyone in it is carrying on, but she had been left behind.
“A volunteer now visits this lady on a regular basis and has made a world of difference, bringing in local news and keeping her in touch with what is happening in her area.
“The volunteer is matched to the client, so that a rapport can be developed, which makes creating a friendship so much easier and generally, as in this case, having someone to talk to is a great boost to morale and something to look forward to each week.”