Care of the Elderly

The latest report into N.H.S. care of the elderly is pretty damning, but before we all raise our hands in horror/point the finger or whatever other cliché is appropriate to manifest disgust, we should ask how we treat the elderly ourselves.

It is possible to romanticise care of the elderly. The white-haired grandma or grandpa, sitting quietly in a rocking chair and dispensing wisdom and kindness to everyone, is, more often than not, a fiction. We don’t associate such figures with the frailty, querulousness, and smelliness of old age which is the reality. Anyone who has cared for a very old person over a long stretch of time will know the tiredness and guilt that such care often imposes on the carer. It is complicated further when the care must be given in cramped conditions, with lack of understanding or downright hostility to contend with from other members of the family. If we don’t do all that brilliantly at home, should we expect any better in hospital, which is not, after all, meant for long-term care but for getting people better as quickly as possible?

Perhaps the real problem is not so much the failures that have been highlighted in N.H.S. hospitals as the attitudes of society in general to the elderly. Respect nowadays has to be earned. In Benedict’s day, it was accorded automatically. Unless we genuinely respect others and see in them the person God has created and redeemed, I think we all run the danger of seeing the elderly as a nuisance, a drag, not worth bothering about. That is a chilling thought.

If nothing else, I’m not sure I would want to stand before God on Judgement Day and say I found any of his children ‘not worth bothering about’, would you?

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9 thoughts on “Care of the Elderly”

  1. Whilst probably not the whole cause, I think the poor care of the elderly in hospital has two contributing factors. One is because of the society we now live in and the other, much more under government control, is the training of hospital staff; all hospital staff not just medical staff.

    First, society now expects much from more professional care than it did years ago. We shift the burden of care to someone else so that our own burden becomes purely financial. We pay for someone to do what we don’t want to do ourselves.

    Secondly, since nursing has become a profession requiring degree level qualification and not just a vocation, there is more focus in training and education on the task based medical aspects of care. Too often a condition is treated, not a person cared for. Jesus wasn’t a doctor, and for all the healing miracles He did, He probably didn’t understand how a body worked as we do today (which is still really only scratching the surface) but He understood a person’s needs. All hospital staff including managers and support staff and not just clinical staff, should be trained and constantly reminded about a person’s needs. Not just how to treat a medical condition.

  2. I love old people and go out of my way to help them and be nice to them. They’ve lived through so much more than we have, and we can learn alot from them.
    Plus, we’ll all get old one day and can only hope that we get treated then how we should treat them now.

    It’s not that I am trying to be a do-gooder or hoping people will say what a nice person I am. It’s more out of guilt. In my younger and wilder days, I neglected my mother. Instead of being nice to her, I was always rebellious, argumentative and overall, a pain in the neck to her. By the time I realised the errors of my ways and realised that she did it all for me out of love, she had passed away. I’ve never forgiven myself for it and I guess I’m trying to make up for it. Also, I actually enjoy the company of older people.
    I only hope my mother can see it and forgive me.

  3. I saw a recent TV interview with a man who mother had died, partly as a result of neglect, in an NHS geriatric care home. He was invited by the drift of the questioning to agree that this had happened because of staff shortages/spending cuts. In fact he said: “No, there seemed to be a satisfactory number of staff; it was just that they didn’t seem to care”.

    I found this both chilling and instinctively recognisable. Perhaps at some level we have stopped caring. I too have elderly parents, one with Alzheimer’s, and am conscious that in the past almost all the care they needed would have been provided by relatives, at home. That’s not the case any more, and I have no doubt I will have cause to be grateful for that before too long. But I worry about the extent to which, by relying on others for their basic care, I will be honouring them, as I am called to do.

  4. I work as a caregiver in a hostel for the elderly and we treat our residents with loving care and I am proud of what we do and how they are treated. Of course, it is a private hostel (in Australia) so perhaps things are better for us here, I don’t know. I love my work and find caring for the elderly very rewarding and I dearly love those I care for. I am so sorry when I hear about poor conditions elsewhere, and will keep praying that conditions improve everywhere.

  5. Just to say that My Mum’s home carers are lovely, caring women who treat her with the utmost respect (they are all middle -aged + & have names like Elsie & Muriel) she has said to me she feels ‘very lucky’ with them …
    I thank God for such a blessing especially with the current news stories.

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