When you think about caring for someone in the end stage of dementia, what comes into your mind? Unless you’ve been there, you probably wouldn’t say ‘laundry’.
When I was researching dementia caregiver burden, I visited a daughter who was caring for her elderly father with dementia. She and her sister were sharing his care, which meant that he stayed three weeks with one, and then three weeks with the other. It worked well, because it meant they could get a rest. Also, when the one was ‘on duty’, the other would come and collect the laundry. It made a huge difference.
So, it’s sad to read in the Bucks Free Press that the Council has had to scrap its laundry service for elderly caregivers. Elaine Dawson, (73) has been looking after her 96-year-old year-old mother who has dementia. Elaine said, ‘We can’t cope with mum’s washing. She gets through a minimum of five pairs of trousers a day and she’s not doing it through choice, so what can we say? What happens to all the people who rely on it? There are so many people in a much worse state that my mum… There are people who don’t have sons or daughters or sisters or carers to do things for them and what are they going to do?
‘We’re talking about people who are very frail or people with mental health or physical issues or people like my mum with dementia and they are just going to be left.’
The service cost just £10: Social Services would collect the washing every Monday and return it the next week. And instead of the standard ‘distancing’ response from the council, there’s an encouraging note. Elaine’s concerns have not been dismissed out of hand out of hand. A spokesperson said that they decided to discontinue the service last July as fewer people were using it. But added, “We cannot discuss individual cases but can confirm that, until a suitable alternative is found, all service users will continue to be assisted with our own in-house laundry…We appreciate Mrs Dawson’s concern for our vulnerable clients and want her to know that no individuals will be left without the support they need.”
So it’s thumbs-up for Bucks’ County Council. Not every local authority is helping with laundry in this way. Bucks’ Council clearly want to do their best for hard pressed caregivers. I hope that churches in the area are praying for them, and that they’ll be able to continue their service.