Dr John Smith: Caring takes longer than 15 minutes

Fifteen-minute slots for carers of elderly people is not enough, says Dr John
Fifteen-minute slots for carers of elderly people is not enough, says Dr John

I have been timing myself, and I am in my late 60s.

How long does it take to get out of bed, go to the bathroom, get downstairs and make a cup of tea?

Time is passing and I haven’t washed yet, had a shave or been to the loo again. Pyjamas off.

Where are my clean underpants? Shirt on, shirt off... last night’s soup right down the front.

Fifteen minutes well and truly gone and I am fit and can move around quickly.

Breakfast? Toast, that would be nice but the bread is in the freezer. Defrost.

Meanwhile butter and marmalade out of the fridge. Oh no, the butter is hard and will not spread.

The clock is ticking away.

So let’s move on a few years. I am older, considerably slower, a bit shaky and forgetful.

If you don’t mind me telling you, I am incontinent of urine and every morning more than smelly.

Despite incontinence pads the bed needs changing most mornings and the washing machine needs to go on... pyjamas, pants and sheets.

I would reckon that I’ve needed at least 30 minutes and when the carer returns there will be a similar amount of work and the washing needs to come out of the machine and be hung over radiators.

How I hate that. It is a poor substitute for ironing and yes I used to be able to do that.

And so the day goes on. By my reckoning none of this can be done in 15 minutes and 30 minutes is rushing it.

Before you ask, my family live away and is it wrong of me to say I don’t want to move near them?

I like to be near my friends even if I don’t see them.

I have no complaints about my carers but none of them have time to talk to me.

I am slower but everybody else seems to be in such a rush.

And that is the problem. When you or I need care at home and we are given 15-minute slots of care.

I am not saying that it can’t be done. It can. Just.

But it is what is left undone that matters.

We are human beings, not robots or machines.