Last Night’s TV – Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?

by Lynn Connolly


Oh god. What a depressing film this was, but a necessary one since no less than 250,000 Britons can expect to develop dementia and may well find themselves put into one of these homes where the prefix, ‘care’ may or may not be a true description of the treatment you – or I – will receive. It also compounded my resolve to take something akin to the Hemmingway Solution should I ever suspect I might have dementia.

Dementia is one of the cruelest of diseases since it robs the sufferer not only of their memories, but their entire personality too. And often, as we saw many times last night, it can also plunge victims into a nightmare existence where everyone is out to hurt them.

“You’re trying to kill me!” screeched Elsie as a care assistant tried to sort out her cardi. This is a regular occurrence it seems and I suspect Elsie’s cardi was straightened out to demonstrate for the camera some of the nastier sides to dementia as well as what staff in these places have to cope with.

I was a tad uncomfortable with the thought that Elsie was, like a tiger in a circus, poked with a stick to make her perform. Elsie, just like all the other residents of these establishments, is a real person with a real life story. It’s shockingly horrible that she’s destined to be permanently afraid for what remains of her life.

Gerry Robinson showed touching concern and empathy with and for many of those he met with last night. And not just the patients/residents but the overworked and often under-trained staff too. He met with one nurse – who was also the manager of one of the care homes – Jane, who, while she might be a brilliant nurse in general, had so little training in dementia care that she didn’t know what the acronym EMI stood for. It’s ‘elderly mental infirm’ by the way, in case you missed the programme.

Just as an aside, I wonder which government employee sits around thinking such things up? Did whoever it was have a little giggle as they noted that it’s also the name of a record label?

But of course, that’s by the by, and what Gerry uncovered in this first part of his investigation was that dementia care homes are like much else in the world; some are good, some are bad, some are very good and some are very bad.

One thing that seemed common to them all though was the singularly unpleasant fact that in the main, most residents of these homes sit around whiling away what time is left to them with little or no meaningful stimulation. They’re in God’s waiting room, and it wasn’t pleasant to see.

And in some of the less well run homes, the residents aren’t even allowed to go outside to enjoy the sunshine and get some fresh air because there aren’t enough staff to supervise them.

How very sad.

We’ll get to hear Gerry’s proposal in part two of this programme, and I hope, I really hope, he can come up with ways to brighten and improve the lot of dementia sufferers who find themselves in one of these homes.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.