This is not something I have so far not been really involved with but I’ve just had the opportunity to be involved in a workshop and conference on it in the last 2 days. What really struck me is that those involved in this field are overwhelmingly women (nurses) and therefore have difficulty having their voices heard. Add ageism to this, meaning that we are a less important section of the community, and it is difficult to make progress.
There are quite a lot of people who want to improve on current conditions for older people who are less mobile, but lack of recognition of their views and the work they do means that they are having an uphill battle. The outcome of this is that health care costs are higher than they need be and older people in this situation are less happy, and have less satisfying lives, than necessary. To give one example to illustrate what I am talking about, I met one lady, an academic, who is interested in the problem of continence. She reckons that we should be aware of what we need to do to maintain this right from childhood. Yet I suspect that very few people are aware of this. The lack of this knowledge means that far more older people than should are faced with the very unpleasant condition of incontinence in their later years. This is both embarrassing and unpleasant. Apparently one nurse in a residential care home had been heard to say that incontinence care is easy, 3 baths a day solve the problem! Can you imagine a frail older person who has this problem being forced to strip and hauled into a bath 3 times a day? The nurse who made the comment apparently could see no problem with this solution. What a dreadful way to live the last few years of life. It is both undignified and lacks quality. It is also an expensive way to use nursing staff.
As I said at the beginning older people are of little interest, apart from complaints about the cost of keeping us, and the workers (carers) involved are women who are rarely listened to in our sexist world. Most Universities now have faculties of nursing but these don’t have anything like the prestige of economics, accountancy, law or business studies, the mostly male faculties, for example.
No matter how hard the women involved in aged care nursing try to fight for a better deal for their clients they are not on a level playing field. Those who won’t listen to them, the decision makers and politicians, may find out how wrong they are when it is too late. We are already aware that many in these latter groups suffer from dementia in their later years but unpleasant problems such as incontinence are more likely to just be hidden although those suffering from them will still suffer the unpleasantness and indignity. What a pity they didn’t listen when they could have addressed the problem for everyone and come up with the solution the nurses are suggesting.