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Can British social care services learn from the Turkish experience?

Given the current political burnout we are all experiencing as a result of a delayed Brexit and its impact on social care services, and the forthcoming election, I decided to look further afield for this week’s blog article and turn my attention to what is happening in the world of social care in Turkey.

According to an article in the Hurriyet Daily News, Ankara a gerontologist claims that Turkey is a leading country in elderly care through its projects, laws, culture and opportunities.

International day for older persons

"We announced 2019 as the year of older persons to raise awareness and run projects about ageing and elderly people,” Kemal Aydin, head of the International Centre for Ageing and Development (ICAD,) told Anadolu Agency on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons.

Home care or older persons homes

Unlike the UK where we see the need for care homes along with domiciliary care. An expert in studies related to aspects of ageing, Aydin said Turkey is a leading country in elderly care due to its approaches such as the “Peaceful Home” project, which gives priority to home care facilities instead of retirement homes.

“We are against retirement homes. The place where a healthy person stays is their own home, the society. Systems and technologies that value them and make them healthy are delivered to the ones in need in Turkey,” he said.

Nothing is said about the long-term care needs of people with dementia and severe disabilities.

Expo 2021

ICAD aims to organize an expo in 2021, Aydin said. “During the expo, exhibitions and forums will cover the health culture in Anatolia such as recovery homes and social complexes and also Anatolia's historic complementary medicine: music and water therapies,” he added.

Speaking about the projects, Aydin said a documentary competition will be held focusing on the stories of centenarians, or people aged 100 and above.

“We also plan to establish a charity fund to help elderly people in need,” he said, adding money from the fund will also be spent to build age-friendly cities across the country.

Alzheimer village

“When we establish the world's largest Alzheimer's village with health diplomacy, everyone will wish to visit it.”

I am sure readers will have their own views about the concept of a village for people with Alzheimer's disease. I spent a large part of my early career trying to address the ramification of institutionalisation. For me normalisation should be at the forefront with people who have Alzheimer's disease sharing in what there own community has to offer.

Placing older people in a sector of their own

Around 1.5 billion elderly people in the world with 125 million of them in Europe alone creates a sector of its own, Aydin said.

“Turkish entrepreneurs can create content for media, competitions, holidays and learning programs targeting elderly people.”

“Turkey is a point of attraction in health tourism with its nature, technical infrastructure and cultural heritages,” he added.

“The World Ageing Summit was held for the first time in Turkey in 2005 with the participation of around 1,000 prominent people, including President Erdoğan, who was then prime minister,” Aydin said.

“In order to achieve the summit, we worked hard to promote Turkey since 1990, when the UN General Assembly declared Oct. 1 as the International Day of Older Persons on Dec. 14, 1990,” he added.

Summary

One should recognise that this article is an attempt to promote what is happening in social care in Turkey. What then can social care in the UK learn from Turkey? Firstly, I do not wish to place a label on older people recognising them as a sector on their own. The focus should be on the services provided for them rather than any categorisation.

The concept of a village for people with Alzheimer's disease fills me with trepidation akin to villages for people with learning disabilities in the UK. I want to see people with Alzheimer’s disease regardless of what stage they are at, continuing to be part of and supported by their own community.

In Turkey, priority is given to home care rather than care home provision. Research I have covered in recent blogs would support the view that most people in the UK would prefer to stay in their own homes. But readers will know that there may come a time that the support a person needs cannot be provided at home or it becomes too costly. It is then that they may require a care home.

I believe however that we can learn from Turkey. We must learn to promote more about (as this article has done) what is good about social care in the UK. Why can’t we have an expo that celebrates the achievements in social care, and why do not more people write about the care given by many excellent social care staff that provide much needed support to people.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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