Stuck in the system - Neurological care in Scotland

Colin McFarlane

Colin McFarlane (right) with his Dad Gordon and sister Laura

Sue Ryder is campaigning to Rewrite the Future for people with neurological conditions in Scotland. We’re asking all candidates standing for election to the Scottish Parliament on 5 May to pledge to end inequalities for people with neurological conditions. This guest blog is by Colin McFarlane who, along with his family, has been trying to get his dad Gordon home after he had a stroke last July. 

Stuck in the system

By Colin McFarlane

It was like the flicking of a switch. My Dad was rushed to hospital in July 2015 after suffering a massive stroke and I knew things were never going to be the same.  At the forefront of my mind was the worry of whether he’d make it through the night, but at the back of my mind was the thought of having to plan for the future and navigate a health and social care system which is not always responsive to the needs of individuals.
My Dad and his doctors fought bravely against the effects of the stroke and in the background the family tried to work with the system to find the right care and support to aid his recovery.
When the essential medical treatment ended, we were handed a list of care homes in the area and asked to come back with our top three choices.  How difficult can it be, we thought?  We’ll visit a few and pick the one which best suited his and our needs.  Little did we know that not a single care home could provide the level of care and support my Dad requires.
My Dad is 61 – he’s not an old man, so why does the system think it’s appropriate to place him in an elderly care home?  The same type of home filled with people twenty or thirty years older than him.
My Dad isn’t frail, he isn’t elderly and he doesn’t suffer from dementia, so why would we put him in a care home?  My Dad needs socialisation, stimulation and physical rehabilitation alongside people his own age.  For all the excellent work that elderly care homes do, they aren’t appropriate for younger adults and yet they have to provide that type of care because there is no other alternative.  People with neurological conditions and acquired brain injuries deserve much better care than the current system can offer.
Sadly, putting a loved one into a care home is the only option available to families across Scotland.  My family are lucky; we’ve got the scope to redevelop our house to ensure that Dad has everything he needs for care at home.  But such development comes at a huge cost.  Not every family has the ability or the capacity to raise the kind of sums involved to do this and not every family has the fight or the strength to take on a system which appears intent on putting up barriers along the way.
It’ll take weeks to develop plans for an extension, it’ll take months to obtain planning permission and building warrants, it’ll take weeks to build and it’ll take even longer to raise the money needed to pay for it all.  And if you want to apply for a grant?  Add on a couple of months for that too.  While this all goes on, my Dad is laying in a hospital bed whittling away the time by staring at the ceiling.  Who knows what this is doing to his physical and mental wellbeing.  Quite simply, there are too many barriers in the way.

Scotland needs a new approach to the care of people with neurological conditions and acquired brain injuries and it needs it now.  I’m backing the Sue Ryder ‘Rewrite the Future’ campaign and I hope candidates for the Scottish Parliament will make supporting people like my Dad a national priority.  We can do so much better.  We have to.

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