THE wife of a dementia sufferer who faces being left in bed day after day because of a shortage of carers has called for action to tackle the crisis in East Lothian.

David Paton was a high-profile servant of the county as a former community councillor and district councillor. He helped lead the fight to stop the Pond Hall being closed and supported the setting up of John Bellany Day Centre in his home community of Cockenzie and Port Seton.

But four years ago, life changed when David was diagnosed with dementia, and wife Barbara has been caring for him with the support of carers at their home in Cockenzie.

Mrs Paton revealed recent changes to her husband’s mobility meant that, at the age of 87, he now needs two carers to help him get out of bed each day.

And when the service provider was unable to find an additional carer to offer the ‘double up’ support, the solution was simply to leave Mr Paton in bed.

Mrs Paton, 75, told the Courier: “Until the change to my husband’s mobility he had a carer come in three times a day to help and he was able to get up and go through to the living room for the day, but once they decided he needed two carers to get him up they were unable to find the staff and they decided the solution was to leave him in bed all day.

“There seems to be no change in sight for this situation and I cannot allow it to go on. It has had an impact on my husband, he stopped eating.”

Mrs Paton said that after one week of watching her husband – a former Conservative councillor – languishing in his bed all day, she became so concerned she put him into emergency respite.

She said: “Unless my sons were able to come round and help David out of bed he was being left.

“He was due to go into respite for two weeks but I took the decision to move him into emergency respite immediately because I know at least there he will not be neglected.”

Now Mrs Paton is appealing for more to be done to tackle the shortage of carers in East Lothian.

She said: “David was a devoted councillor and would have fought tooth and nail for his constituents, so I have to fight for him.

“It has been so sad to see the changes caused by his condition but we cannot have a situation where we, and other families like us, cannot get the service needed because there are not enough staff. This is a problem that is not going to go away as we have an increasingly elderly generation.”

Councillor Lachlan Bruce, ward member for Preston, Seton, Gosford, said: “Firstly, I hope that Mr Paton will soon be able to return home to his wife and receive his care there. No one wants to see any individual placed into emergency respite care, least of all due to a shortage of staff.

“To fix this problem we need to start encouraging people to go into the caring profession; that starts with school leavers and also those that are a bit older and looking for a career change.

“The whole of society needs to sell these roles as the productive and enjoyable careers they can be and I don’t think we do that enough.

“I also think we need to look at the accessibility for people who work as carers in East Lothian, as being a large, mostly rural area can make it a difficult commute to their clients across the county, both in terms of the cost and the actual distances that are travelled.

“With a growing and ageing population here in East Lothian, this isn’t an issue we can ignore any longer.”

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnerhsip, which oversees adult care, said they could not comment on individual cases.

But she said: “We have just completed a major care at home redesign and procurement exercise that will enable us to address some of the challenges linked to homecare support, including addressing capacity shortfalls which can lead to difficulty in organising a carer.

“We are working with providers and colleagues to better meet the needs of clients and their carers and also support providers in promoting recruitment opportunities whenever we can.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, who sits on the East Lothian Integration Joint Board, which oversees social care, said the council would have to pay more money to its providers if it wanted to attract more carers.

He said: “This is supply and demand. The reality is that if the providers need to offer a higher salary to attract carers then the council has to pay the providers a higher rate.

“The sad reality is that it is the people who need the care and their families who suffer and the council has a statutory duty to provide the care needed, either through providers or by bringing the service inhouse and paying carers a higher wage directly.”