Archives for posts with tag: elder abuse

The only mention made of death in our society is usually through the old saying that taxes and death are the only two certainties in life. The rest of the time it seems to be a taboo subject. The only certainty about it is that it will happen, yet for most of us the how, where and when are not only complete uncertainties but not discussed.

I’m trying to work out how long I will last, given my current age, life expectancy for my age group and restrictions such as chronic illness. This sounds really potent yet seems to be the medical name for diabetes and other common diseases which affect life expectancy. I felt really doomed when I first heard the expression, but life has gone back to normal since then!

For older people it probably makes life a bit easier if we can work out a rough, probably inaccurate time limit. It gives us a bit of a time-line for things we would like to achieve before then, such as tidying up and sorting through possessions (called rather cutely ‘downsizing’!). It doesn’t seem to work for me, having recently passed on a whole lot of books I knew I would never read to charity, then restocking with other books I thought I might read!

The other uncertainties we face are the how  and where. Most people say they would like to die at home but few do. I suspect that this could be caused by medicos trying to use their new devises and medications on us when we would prefer to just quietly leave this world.

The big problem is the current discussion we are currently having in Australia about being allowed to do have a hand in our death and allow us to advance it when medication is not currently available to so painlessly. Euthanasia has almost been a taboo topic and is often described as murder. There are quite a few countries intelligent enough to allow it under very strict conditions and it seems to work well, with the conditions imposed preventing abuse. The opponents to this practise seem to base their objections on reasoning which is not based on intelligence and knowledge. These are often the same people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. The problem is that although their ranks are being reduced because more people are applying reason and logic to arguments, based on modern knowledge, these groups still have a traditional influence which they inflict on all of us.

If people oppose those of us who want to be able to die to escape excruciating pain, why should this minority be allowed to dictate what we choose to do? If I still looked at the world through religious eyes I suspect I would think that if God hadn’t yet released to us the knowledge to reduce all pain to a bearable level, then why shouldn’t we use the God-given knowledge we already have to choose to end our suffering? How heartless are these people if they are prepared to force their own families to have to watch them suffer needlessly, often for weeks and months? Not my idea of a Christian, loving world in which we really care about those we love, as well as our neighbours, in its full definition.

Dying would be less of a worrying uncertainty if people didn’t have to face the possibility of unrelieved excruciating pain accompanying it. Lets at least make this a certainty.

One of the topics discussed at a conference on ageing I recently attended in India was that of elder abuse. It led me to have a look at the ACT policy which I had never thought to check before. I was horrified but I shouldn’t have been. When I think about it, elder abuse is merely an extension of ageism but at a particularly personal level.
I wonder how long it will be before the situation where younger people, who have no idea of what it is like to age, stop being employed in departments or organisations which purport to act on behalf of us older people? This not only applies to public service departments but also to private organisations which purport to act on our behalf, often being given not-insubstantial grants to do so. Only then do I think will we older people come into our own and the ‘problem’ of an ageing population diminish.
At the same conference I heard a couple of people from outside the ACT saying what a good job the government was doing to turn our national capital into an ‘age friendly city’. This is obviously the message the public servants employed in this area are putting out about their work. Personally, as an older person who lives here, I can’t see any change happening. I guess if you are given a job to do you have to ‘sell’ what you are doing to justify being paid to do it. I think of this every time I do my grocery shopping as I fight with a trolley which wants to go any which way along a slope which doesn’t go the way people want to go, at our major local shopping centre. The woman responsible for the design of the centre was very abusive about what the community wanted and wouldn’t let us have it (such as ease of access between shops and parking lot) so we are stuck with her poor design for ever.
Meanwhile we need to tackle the problem of elder abuse as it can obviously make the lives of older people literally not worth living. There is plenty of literature on what constitutes abuse but basically it occurs whenever older people are not treated with respect, and as equals. This behaviour includes depriving them of food (such as in one care facility which was accused in court on two occasions of being guilty of failing to do. I’m not sure why they didn’t lose their licence on the first occasion, let alone the second. It also includes financial, spiritual, physical etc. support. This isn’t spelled out in detail in the legislation so I am sure there is plenty of abuse which the perpetrators don’t realise they are committing. Even if they did I suspect that the punishment wouldn’t amount to more than sending a message to be more careful not to get caught next time.
This is all very cynical but as long as the voices of older people are not heard abuse will continue to be perpetrated. What the legislation needs is to be clarified by examples of what constitutes abuse and with adequate penalties involved, not only for the perpetrators but also for the victims so they know that they don’t have to put up with this treatment. Although those operating aged care facilities should be well aware that they need to provide adequate food and drink for their residents.
I believe that this is the sort of issue the Ministers Advisory Council on Ageing should be raising. Apparently not. One day may be our voices will be heard.