Older people living with one or more long-term conditions are routinely ignored and invisible in health and social care policy and planning, despite their prevalence and their needs. We were commissioned by AgeUK to create ‘an opening scenario’ on this issue for their conference on long-term conditions to be addressed by the Secretary of State for Health. The audience largely comprised of health professionals, many of whom inured to the reality of what life is like as a frail older person living with more than one long-term condition.
The opening scenario was intended to set the scene for presentations and debate around the policy context for long-term conditions, the delivery of services in the NHS, and the potential contribution from the voluntary sector.
Our brief stressed the importance of conveying the reality of older peoples’ lives, their wishes and needs, and their aspirations to live well despite their long term conditions. And to share examples of positive practice in helping people to live well and manage their own health.
We created a twenty-minute script drawn from the report Good Days and Bad Days: Stories of Ageing in the Community published by The Young Foundation in 2011, which consisted of transcribed interviews of a cross-section of older people with long term conditions, many of whom were interviewed with their spouses.
The script aimed to show a broad spectrum of the lives of these interviewees, from day-to-day experience, to extreme low points, as well as wherever possible, some lighter moments so as to engage as well as inform the audience. The aim of the script was to make this sample of older people come alive and make their stories memorable through the script and through skilled professional performances.
Five stories were selected, some of which involved couples talking together which was an effective way of making the script more lively. They shared their experiences of the impact on their lives of immobility, contact with family members, negative experiences in hospital, good carers and bad, and, repeatedly, of the inadequate amount of time allotted by agencies to carers.
The performed reading, entitled My Life With Long Term Conditions and scripted by Sonja Linden, featured actors (from left to right) Peter Marinker, Annie Firbank, Trevor Allan Davies, Paul Humpoletz and Norma Cohen. It was received by the conference audience as a moving, insightful and dynamic representation of the subjects’ stories.