Sir James Munby, Britain’s leading family judge, has expressed ‘personal outrage’ over putting older couples into different care homes.
Britain’s leading family judge has called for an immediate end to splitting up elderly couples when one or both are moved to a care home.
Although such instances were rare, Sir James Munby said no one should ever be uprooted from their home and other family members against their will.
The president of the high court’s family division told the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services conference of his “personal outrage” at the “inhumanity” of putting older couples who had been together for decades into separate care homes.
Most people would prefer to stay with their partner than live somewhere safer, Munby argued.
Studies have found that a disproportionate number of people die shortly after being moved to a care home.
The 68-year-old judge, who is due to retire next year, said: “We do know that people die of a broken heart. I have read of cases where one person died and then the other dies a couple of days later. How long do people last if they are uprooted? A very short time.”
About 300,000 elderly people in England and Wales live in care homes.
Munby said social workers should resist the desire to “rescue” the elderly from “squalid” dwellings that they nevertheless regarded as their home.
“Merely demonstrating that if you let that person go on living in that house there is a foreseeable and appreciable risk that one day a neighbour or carer will come in and find them with a broken neck at the bottom of the stairs – is that sufficient justification for making them leave, if it is going to make them thoroughly miserable?” he told the conference.