Friday, October 14, 2011
Neglecting Our Elderly
20 something years ago I was a student nurse working in a hospital on the outskirts of London. When I was training, we were based on the wards (now they train in classrooms) we were counted in staff numbers, learnt the value of communication, observation and practice in reality not in theory. We had much time to sit with the patients and talk to them.
Why am I bringing this up now?
Because the news is currently full of stories of neglect of the elderly and of starved patients.
I know that when I trained, many times I spent over half an hour spoon feeding an elderly patient. Sometimes it took even longer. Those patients who had suffered strokes or had difficulty swallowing took great patience to feed, but we knew how vital it was to get the food into them to aid the healing process. It was frequently drummed into us, the importance of not just putting the food tray on the table, but to make sure the patient was sat up, had the table in reach, was competent to feed themselves etc. We were taught to help someone overcome the shame of asking for help to cut up their food or to feed themselves. We were trained to look for tell tale signs that meant someone wouldn't manage.
Who is there to do this now? They took students off the wards, they squeezed the NHS so that staff were overrun and simply did not have the time to feed the patients. I have heard countless stories of the elderly being neglected in recent years.
So what is the solution?
The government needs to fund elderly carers who are paid to go and sit and feed these elderly patients. To give them the responsibility to make sure the elderly and infirm are adequately fed and watered.
This in turn would fund itself as the elderly patients would heal quicker and be off the wards faster.
Who could do this valuable job?
Well, the recent talk from the government that those on job seekers allowance should do work to gain their benefits is just one example of a ready market of workers.
Another is those with long term disabilities who can't "work" in standard jobs, this would give them purpose etc and be an environment ready set up for access etc.
Thirdly volunteers, who want to do their bit to make the world a better place.
This could be "The Big Society"
The shame of the "Elderly Neglect" should be a thing of the past... we are all going to be old ourselves!