Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 38

Today we meet again with the neighbourhood group. We have noticed that “buurtzorg” (neighbourhood care) has had quite a bit of publicity since our last meeting. We all hope it will grow quickly, because we believe this is the right formula: both the clients and the nurses are much more satisfied with this kind of care and it is not more expensive but rather cheaper than the extremely rationalised care given by very large bureaucratic but commercial home care organisations.

We also have heard that Mea Vita will go bankrupt, but that its work will be taken over by two other organisations, one a cleaning firm that will do the house work (so this is no longer considered as a social service) and another organisation that will do the rest of the work of Mea Vita.

Some of us come up with new stories of older people having been discharged from hospital and sent home without any help.

We don’t think that there is much more to do for us to promote the work of buurtzorg than to have it mentioned in publications of the church and the neighbourhood association and to inform the committee on the elderly of the neighbourhood association.

Some of us have more information about what is going on in our neighbourhood. It seems that the municipality is organising a meeting beginning March to hear the views of the inhabitants in our part of town about wellbeing, in its broadest sense: it seems to cover almost everything: work, income, education, health, “liveability” (I am sorry I cannot explain this term), care and recreation. Only one of us has received the invitation, which is amazing. Those of us who can attend will do so. We discuss whether there are urgent issues to bring forward in the meeting and we decide that one of the great shortcomings in care is that the whole structure of everything that has been organised in this sector is so complicated that it is nearly impossible to find your way in it. Older people who need help do not know where to find it. The different agencies, involved in supporting older people are so many that it takes almost a professional to arrange for a care package that satisfies all the needs of a dependent person. The problem is that many older people, once they need help, are too weak and not sufficiently assertive to go and seek in the maze of care organisations the services they need and to convince the agencies that they need them now. In our neighbourhood there are many older people living alone who do not have children or younger relatives or friends who can do this for them, because many live quite isolated. Aren’t there really any agencies which can do this for them? It is amazing how many agencies we know between the five of us, each doing something, but, as far as we know there is no agency that is able to help individuals get the care they need and to monitor its adequacy over time. So this is one of the issues we will bring forward in this meeting. We also regret that we do not have an easily accessible community centre that is open all the time and where you can go for a cup of coffee, where you find information about activities in the neighbourhood and the city and where groups can meet. There is one, small accommodation of the neighbourhood association, but it let a lot of the time and it is not a centre where one can just drop in. Another issue is that public transportation leaves a lot to be desired.

When I get home I hear on the radio that there has been a terrible plane crash near Amsterdam. Nine people have died and many have been wounded. It is unclear what has caused the crash, but the news on radio and TV is mostly about the crash all day long.

In the afternoon I call the civil servant who organises the meeting in our neighbourhood, telling him that I want to attend. It is a strange conversation. He wants the addresses of the people of our small group, but even if I tell him, that the invitation has been copied so we all have it, he keeps repeating this question. He also does not seem to realise that not yet everyone in the city has internet. After a while he calls me back (unexpectedly and without mentioning his name), saying he was not at his desk during the earlier phone call, but he has returned to his desk, so he can better answer me now. We repeat the same conversation once more, but finally I gather there are more papers than what I have seen and he will forward these to me. The municipality has sent the invitations only to the people whose names are known to them as people involved in some activities. Strange criterion!

In the evening I read in the national newspaper another article about buurtzorg and the news that there is a similar organisation (buurtservices) now for home help on a neighbourhood scale. There are several pilots in The Netherlands, but not yet in The Hague. I will have to go to the internet and find out what he state of affairs is.

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