"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
800,000 vulnerable elderly adults are being “robbed of their dignity”, a report by 60 government advisors warned today. Their houses are being sold and their saving ravished to pay for spiralling care costs, while some are subject to fatal neglect and horrific abuse, the report goes on to declare.
The unprecedented coalition of advisors, charity directors and experts will heap pressure onto the government to bring fundamental change to a failing system that leaves the elderly feeling neglected and ‘lonely’. The solution will almost inevitably be to prop-up council budgets, insist on more rigorous training regimes and more stringent CRB checks – but will this really win the fight against elderly neglect and ‘loneliness’?
From first-hand experience of working in private care homes, I can confirm that even if statistical ‘neglect’ is banished, real-term neglect will be rife. The elderly want compassion, dignity and respect and they get this through emotional attachment – in short, they want their families.
Alzheimer’s and other degenerative afflictions make elderly nursing homes essential. They provide assistance with basic functions, assistances that cannot be realistically provided by family members, but care assistance does not tackle the problem of emotional neglect.
The majority of care assistants I have worked with have been foreign nationals. I have worked at three different care homes and this has been typical of all three. The cultural, linguistic and sociological differences between carer and resident prevents the formation of close bonds and mutual understanding.
Moreover, the typical demeanour of a care assistant is one of subdued acceptance. There is a paradox – being that if a carer was to offer the compassion and attachment required to help alleviate the emotional isolation felt by the elderly, they would be condemning themselves to a life of suffering and grief. When we are born, we inadvertently sign a contract with life whereby we agree to suffer the pain of losing our loved one’s, namely – our grandparents and parents. Losing close, personal friends on a weekly basis slowly grates at the soul until apathy overrides all other emotions by way of a self-defence mechanism. Those who can be bothered to care, can’t afford to care.
So although a coalition of experts in the field of elderly care are demanding fundamental overhauls of the system to prevent quantifiable neglect and indignity – neglect and indignity cannot be fully combatted until families take responsibility for the emotional care of their elderly members and stop regarding it as a commodity or service that can be purchased.
Story after story of greed, corruption and elitism remind us that the top 1% hold all the cards of power in western society. Whether it be bankers’ bonuses, council chief’s pay packages, footballer’s salacious shenanigans or dodgy MP expenses – we, as a society, are continuously subject to gut-wrenching double standards and economic asymmetry.
The ethical mandate for Capitalism used to be the ‘trickle down affect’ – meaning that as those at the top of the heap got richer, the quality of life for those underneath improved as a result. This hasn’t happened and certainly isn’t happening. Instead, as the elite reduces in number and becomes more concentrated, so the money osmoses upwards to compound the imbalance.
What has trickled down from the mentality of Capitalism is that of a culture of greed and selfishness; where material wealth is the value of life and buying things it’s reason.
Caring for an elderly relative requires patience and sacrifice – but sacrifice is not consistent with the philosophy of greed and selfishness – meaning more and more are unprepared to make it.
Prior to the rise of the care home, tradition had it that, as a rule, elderly relatives would move in with their immediate families or to a nearby residency where they could retain a degree of independence as well as receive support from their loved one’s. It was the housewife that spearheaded this support, with a strong family unit to back her up.
Ever since a steep increase during the 1970′s, divorce rates have virtually flatlined. The number of marriages has significantly dropped however, meaning that at present there is roughly one divorce for every two marriages, compared to about one to three during the mid-70′s and a fraction of that prior to 1960.
Added to this, the percentage of working mothers has risen from 23% to 29% in 15 years – a 25% increase.
A larger number of single parent families coupled with an increase in families with two working parents has engendered a situation where finding time to spend with their children proves difficult, let alone the time to visit and care for their own parents.
A report issued earlier in the year announced that working mothers only managed, on average, just over an hour a day with their children. An item in the Telegraph earlier this week reported that half of the over-75 population live by themselves and can expect only one visit a month from their families. A shockingly sad state of affairs.
Ironically, the culture from which a significant number of care assistants come from see it as a responsibility to care for their elderly relatives. They are taken into their homes and treated as harbingers of wisdom and as objects of reverence.
Although today’s call for political action will probably reduce the number of elderly seen as neglected on paper, the true neglect and abandonment felt by a growing number of vulnerable adults will only reduce when families take an active role in supplying the care, compassion and kindliness that their parents did for the previous generation.
Born February 9, 1737 - bones lost!
Author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.