|Old age is a state of mind|
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately at the appalling neglect and general bad treatment many old people suffer when in hospital. I was particularly interested to hear a Southampton hospital mentioned. I could be wrong, but I assume it was the Southampton General where my aunt spent 5 weeks last Autumn, it doesn't have a good reputation locally. It was a very distressing time for all her friends and family as we didn't really know why she needed to be there and she didn't seem to be getting treated very well. Her essential medication, which keeps her Parkinson's under control was not given to her for two or three days after she was moved onto a ward after being discharged from A&E, so she was shaking violently for several days until she was given her medicine and it had time to take affect.
She only needed to be in hospital because the manager of the Care Home she had just moved into felt she couldn't cope with her and refused to have her back after my aunt's broken wrist had been dealt with. She told the hospital that her medication needed adjusting as my aunt was falling over several times a day and this was the second time in three or four days that she'd been taken to A&E.
The hospital did nothing until we rang up after about a week to find out what was happening. Then we had to telephone the Parkinson's Nurse ourselves as they didn't have the gumption to find out her number - she is the only one in their area. A week or so later we found out that someone had contradicted her instructions and cancelled the visit from the Psychiatrist. I think it was my sister who discovered this and pleaded with them to re-book the visit.
The long and the short of it was that although promptly sorting out the correct dose and type of medication my aunt needed and assessing her mental state could have resulted in her being discharged from hospital several weeks earlier, it all seemed to much trouble and without us continually phoning or seeking out staff to speak to when visiting her we felt she would quite possibly have been left in a corner and forgotten. Friends and family members also helped her to drink and also gave her food as she always seemed ravenous. She was unable to eat or drink without assistance.
She was on several different orthopaedic wards during her stay, because she had broken her wrist, but that was not the reason she was in hospital. The wards with mostly older patients was where she was treated the worst. When she was moved to a ward with a wider age range we noticed an improvement in the attitudes of the nurses.
This seems to reflect other people's experiences. It seems that for some reason the staff on wards for the elderly seem to lack the motivation or basic human compassion to give basic care to these vulnerable patients, many of whom are able to do little for themselves and cannot even speak up for themselves.
I wonder why this is. Is this simply a reflection of the general attitude of our society? I read in my mother-in-laws' paper that some women over 50 find that men don't seem to see them any more and tend to ignore them, yet 50 isn't very old these days, it is merely middle aged.
There is also a tendency in our society to only value anything for it's monetary value. The biodiversity and great benefits our woodlands and forests bring to us seem to have been forgotten by our government eager to raise money. People who don't earn a wage and pay taxes such as stay at home mums and many elderly folk don't seem to be found as interesting as high-flying executives earning big bucks.
Another problem raised during discussions about how we treat our old people in hospital was that there seems to be too much emphasis on the medical treatment and technical side of thing to the extent that the humanity and human needs of the people undergoing the treatment becomes lost from view.
I wonder also if the staff at some of these hospitals are overly stressed and perhaps undervalued, demoralised and even demeaned by there over-stressed, target-driven superiors?
Whatever the cause, we cannot consider ourselves to be truly civilised if we continue to allow our old people to be treated in this way.
Do you see all old people the same, or do you appreciate that people age differently and there are many active and capable people in their 70's and even 80's.
How do you view those old people who are frail and vulnerable? How would you like your parents to be treated when they reach that great age, if your parents are still alive? How would you like to be treated yourself when you reach that stage in life? Could that change the way you treat the elderly?