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Caring Times Christmas Lunch 2021

09 Dec 2021

The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London

Pick and mix didn’t die with Woolworths

By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON

A few years ago, I was asked to help find a care home for a family member who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The invitation had been issued in the (misguided) belief that my many years of involvement in the care home industry would have endowed me with a special insight. It turned out to be a tortuous, and indeed tortured, process, one that I have been reminded of by an article I have recently read, about – of all things – Netflix and Spotify.

The piece wasn’t a commentary on the quality of the streaming services, but a reflection on the burden imposed by an over-abundance of choice, from whatever source: “choice paralysis”, the author calls it. In my case, as a proxy selector, the burden was even heavier.

In more general terms, I have since seen the exercise of choice described variously as “tyranny” and “paradox” – where more is actually less. An academic study into attitudes to choice found, for example, that parents were “absolutely terrified of the whole process of selecting schools”. The overall conclusion was that “most people want the state to make … big decisions for them.”

Where the care home sector is concerned, improved choice, reinforced by an official rating system, has been hailed as an unqualified blessing conferred by the competition brought about by privatisation. Unfortunately, it is also experienced as a curse by those who don’t have the time, the knowledge – or perhaps the will – to make the most of the overwhelming array of options from which they are expected to choose.

Should I be confronted with the ugly prospect of spending my final days in residential care – it would only happen if my children ignore my instruction to have me shot first – would I want to be told where to rest my needy head, either by Big Brother or a proxy selector, no matter how well-intentioned? Probably not.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

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