Loneliness, isolation and losing your independence

Working hard and socialising is something we all try to balance and when we get it right, we don’t have a care in the world. We live for the moment and though we may try and make provisions for difficult times, we can never be certain of what is to come, nor of the trauma or shock that change can bring. There are some scenarios in life that can yield a profound, detrimental effect upon a person, in which case mental health conditions can all too easily arise.

But when these scenarios are compounded with factors such as illness, disability, age and pre-existing mental health conditions, loneliness, isolation, and a feeling of betrayal by loved ones can be brought on.

For one client

For one client, strength and independence put her in good stead for her career as an author and later the proprietor of her own publishing company. In the 1960s and ‘70s, before tourism had even taken off, her passion and determination earned her the freedom to travel around the world on proof flights to unknown destinations, producing tourist booklets for BOAC, now known as British Airways.

Since then, at the age of 80, she was swindled out of her business and as a result, her life turned upside down. The years that followed brought her medical troubles, including cancer and a hip replacement, which incurred both mental and financial burdens. She sold her property in Camden Hill during the recession of the 1990s to invest in the growth of her business, though this was before the property market really took off. At this point, she found that she was at the mercy of the landlords and due to several unexpected break clauses, my client was faced with having to move.

As one can appreciate, her experiences have caused her an immense amount of stress and anxiety. Having lived in London for most of her life as an active socialite, ever on the go, nothing could have prepared her for the isolation that would come following the loss of friends, who had either passed away, moved into care homes or lived further away, which wasn’t a problem when she could drive.

With all this came a loss of confidence and self-esteem

With all this came a loss of confidence and self-esteem, and a gradual withdraw from social activities and socialising. She says that she never expected to live this long and that she would never want to be a burden to anyone. She tells me that her mind is fully functional, but her body can’t keep up with it, which understandably causes a lot of frustration. She feels that suddenly, people have begun to treat her like as if she she’s lost her wits, pitying her and ignoring her opinion.

Of course, this is particularly painful for her after living her life so independently. Finding that she required additional support within the home brought extra financial concern, but domiciliary care a couple of times a week appeared to be sufficient. However, in time, anxiety and depression were slowly taking their toll, primarily due to the disappearance of socialising from her life and the fact that she was not keeping that brilliant mind occupied and allowing it to slowly give up.

Not having a friend to share interests with, not feeling a sense of belonging or being loved and the fear of dying alone with no one finding her was constantly at the back of her mind. At this point, hiring a live-in carer seemed to be the best option.

She soon realised that finding the right live-in carer was vital. Going through several different carers and agencies, she gained an insight into the whole process with some very positive experiences and some less desirable.

What was uncovered was unbelievable.

Some carers have worked for their agency for a long period of time, having come from a nursing or caring background. They had been carefully chosen to suit the client and can speak at least conversational English so that the client and carer can have a chat. On the other hand, there were other agencies that were clearly only in it for the money. Some carers, however, spoke very little broken English, had no caring experience, and thus made a mess of the job they had been hired to perform; they were taking longer breaks than they were meant to, were stocking the fridge and cupboards with food that only they themselves liked and were only buying ready meals for the client; were lazy.

It also emerged that none of the carers who had worked with my client knew how to drive, which did very little to help the lack of mobility my client was facing and made her feel as if she was effectively housebound. The thing that concerned me the most, though, was the fact that my client told me that she felt scared in her own home, intimidated, shouted at, and belittled. She even told me that she was being made to feel that she was losing her mind, with her carer insinuating to others that my client was becoming forgetful to cover for her own mistakes and professional shortcomings.

Another thing that came to light was that when my client terminated her contract with the care agency, the carer harassed her to pay the bill directly into her personal account. Understandably, this is a cause for concern for anyone, since my client had entered a contract with this large national care agency and had arranged a direct debit to the company itself.

Rather than provide a formal invoice with a full breakdown of services, the carer simply handed my client a sheet from a paper notepad, with her daily charge, travel expenses, and then a total. Along with this was another note which listed the carer’s personal bank details. There were no breakdowns of services rendered or receipts as proof of any additional expenses.

Who is regulating these charges?

The carers may well be self-employed, but the client’s contract is with the agency, so it’s the agency’s responsibility to offer a formal invoice.
Considering that the nature of this industry brings these agencies into contact with clients significantly more vulnerable than this one, the agencies should be protecting their clients and have a duty of care financially as well as personally.

Who’s to say that the carer is being honest or committing fraud? Are all the carers DBS checked? In this scenario, the care agency takes their cut and then leaves it to the client to then settle the bill when they leave. There were no follow-up calls to check on the client nor was there a visit on termination.

More than £1,600 for the twenty days of live-in care is a substantial amount to be paid directly into the carer’s personal bank account without any documentation to support or a receipt to confirm payment. It is therefore imperative that something is done to regulate and ensure the legitimacy of transactions that carers are forcing upon their clients.

Before making any decisions about eldercare options you will want to make sure that you are obtaining accurate and relevant information from a reliable and well-informed source.

We would always recommend speaking to an elder care consultant such as Clare Edwards, Eldercare Consultant…. https://eldercareconsultant.co.uk