Social care crisis: Woman, 92, waited four months to be discharged
Just a week after being admitted to hospital with an infection, 92-year-old Esme Hanson was well enough to go home.
However it would be four months before she could return to her family, because of a lack of available care.
One care provider told BBC Wales staff shortages were so bad, it handed care packages back to the local council.
The Welsh government said the situation is “fragile” and that it has committed £48m of extra funding to ease the social care crisis in Wales.
When Mrs Hanson became unwell in May, she was admitted to Morriston Hospital in Swansea. Her care arrangements, put in place due to her dementia, were cancelled.
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“I did feel like quitting and I was very close to it not so long ago,
but I decided to stay because I love the job.”
However it was not until September that a new package was finally re-instated, by which time her mental health deteriorated, according her son Andrew.
He said his family were “lucky” to finally get her home.
“If you’ve got somebody over 70 that needs care, you don’t know when they’re going to come out of hospital,” he added.
It was only after the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales’ advised the family to organise their own care, and ask the council to fund it, that Mrs Hanson’s care arrangements were put in place and she was discharged.
He says his mother now receives “wonderful” care at home three times a day.
Swansea council said it was extremely sorry for the delay and that every effort was made to find a package of care with a provider during “unprecedented” times of the coronavirus pandemic.
However Mrs Hanson’s experience is not unique. There were more than 1,000 patients in Welsh hospitals unable to return home due to a lack of care, according to Welsh government figures last month.
Care Forum Wales has warned that the care sector is facing its biggest staffing crisis “in living memory”.
One home care company, All Care, said staffing levels are at their lowest since 2002 and recruitment has been “virtually zero” for months.
Director Keri Llewellyn said “a downward spiral” of staffing shortages means companies are handing back care packages to councils.
She added that care staff are exhausted from working through the pandemic, while low wages made recruitment and staff retention difficult.
“I do need something for my staff now. Some hope, maybe a retention bonus,” said Ms Llewellyn.
Care manager Jane Davies has been helping with daily rounds due to staff shortages.
“You are very tired and you need to spend time with your own family, but you can’t see those people go without care,” she said.
Nicola Peta Hales, 54, said the stress of being a domiciliary care worker almost became too much.
“I did feel like quitting and I was very close to it not so long ago, but I decided to stay because I love the job.”
The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) Cymru has called on the UK and Welsh governments for more help.
Last month the UK government announced a national insurance tax rise, some of which will be used to help fund the care system. On Wednesday, the chancellor is due to outline spending plans for the next three years.
The Welsh government admitted the situation was “fragile”.
Health and Social Care deputy minister Julie Morgan said implementing a living wage of £9.50 per hour for carers was a priority, along with improving working conditions.
“We have to get the system to a place where there are not long waits,” she added.