Sir Michael Parkinson, the UK's Dignity Ambassador, has pleaded for greater consideration for elders in care homes in the country.
While some of the homes are indeed commendable job, some are indifferent while yet others are horror stories altogether - the good, bad and ugly, as he puts it.
AdvertisementHe says in his report, widely covered in the British media, "Last autumn, I visited Red Oaks Care Home in Henfield, near Brighton. It was a lovely place, a very nice house, beautiful grounds and an overall atmosphere of light, space and tranquility.
But what impressed me most about that place was the creative ways in which the staff were connecting with the residents, the majority of whom had some form of dementia...."
He goes on to note, "...a Chief Nurse convincing the hospital board to make dignity a priority, a care-home worker taking a little extra time to find out more about the people he or she cares for, or the visitor taking personal responsibility for highlighting lapses of dignity in care to the ward staff," could make all the difference for the hapless elders and their relatives.
Hailing the work of Chris Took who won the People's Award for Dignity in Care last year, Sir Parkinson said, "Chris understood how anxious families become when patients refuse to eat, and wanted to do as much as possible to allay their fears. He felt it was impossible to prepare a plate of food without knowing the patient or the family who would be eating it. So, he left the kitchen and chatted to patients and families, noting their dietary requirements and preferences. This way he was able to tailor his menus for each individual patient. His was a very personal service..."
He recalls his own experience when his mother, a dementia patient, was an inmate of a care home. "It was during my mother's illness that Mary, my wife, and I gained some understanding of what being in care meant, the good and the bad, which included my mother being patted on the head and called 'ducky', 'dear' and 'love'. Normally, she would have broken the arm of anyone who talked to her like that....It was the little things that irked her, including being addressed in a loud voice when her hearing was perfect. By the latter stages of her illness, she might not have been aware of what was happening to her, and most of her care was fine, but these incidents showed a lack of respect and denied her the dignity that she, and others, deserve.
"In other words, she was being treated as if she was decrepit. I think that is the thing we really need to address, the fact that we treat old people as unworthy of our time and consideration.
"If we treated young people the way we treat older people there would be an outcry, quite rightly so. We don't complain enough about the way our older people are treated."
Referring to the really ugly episodes, Sir Parkinson says in his report, "I've been sent letters about older people being left without enough to eat and drink, food being taken away before they have had a chance to eat it, food being left at the end of the bed on a tray where they cannot reach it, food they cannot swallow or the reverse, a sloppy, unappetising blob on a plate. Now this is where the time and money argument really falls down for me. It defies all logic to spend vast sums of money to keep people in hospital or a care home, to give them expensive drugs and then to forget to ensure they get the most basic of human needs - enough to eat and drink. Absolutely barmy and cruel beyond belief.
"It really doesn't bear thinking about, the helplessness and degradation these people must feel, and the distress it must cause to their relatives. Again, to me this issue goes well beyond dignity and respect, it infringes on people's human rights."