GPs should encourage couples to stay together, a Tory MP has claimed, saying older divorcees put pressure on the social care system.
Writing in the Telegraph, Andrew Selous, the MP for South West Bedfordshire, said:
“A friend recently told me that between them his parents had one set of eyes that worked, one set of ears and one set of legs. They lived together with minimal support. Had they split up the care costs for both of them would have been significant.”
“The number of divorces for the over 60s has increased by 30 per cent in the last decade and the number of over 75s living alone has increased by over a fifth since 1996. This says to me that local authorities and the Department of Health should recognise the very big interest they have in strengthening marriages and couple relationships in order to stop adult social care costs from increasing even more rapidly than they are expected to.”
GPs should talk to couples over the age of 50 about their relationships and refer them to counselling services, the MP said.
He told the paper:
“The point at which people retire is often hugely stressful. The whole business of family life is behind them and couples find out they don’t know how to talk to each other or have fun together.
Older people are the biggest users of the NHS, and GPs are ideally placed to provide support themselves or signpost appropriate support to couples in or near retirement who are on the verge of splitting.”
Mr Selous is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Strengthening Couple Relationships.
His comments were echoed by Chris Sherwood of Relate, who said:
“Being in a couple relationships helps you to stay connected, to contribute and to be active. When people live alone they decline more quickly than they would otherwise because they are not connected and contributing. If you have two people you have a more independent unit.”