Saturday, 22 August 2009

Who should look after the elderly?

When the health of an elderly member of the close family starts to go down hill - who should take the greatest responsibility in making sure they are looked after and provided with the dignity they deserve?

When an elderly person has a deteriorating, life changing or terminal illness is it up to the family, the state, the council or health professions to provide the most viable and effective health and care? And with contemporary British society only getting older, this will only be the consequence of an increasing life expectancy especially with more then six million of the population aged over 80. Therefore who to provide and who to care will be a decision so many more of us will have to face.

This decision of one currently facing myself and my family. My gran has a terminal illness - she has cancer and she refuses to have treatment - a decision I respect. On Monday there is to be a meeting involving all sides of the story from Doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, social services, my mother, my uncle and most importantly my gran. This meeting is to decide the "best" manner in which to proceed with regards to just where my gran is to go after leaving hospital.

To return to her home was a decision she originally intended to make - a place where she wants to return. Yet it is a home which would require radical changing to be safe and stable for her to manage and live within. She would need a carer, yet the NHS/social services fail to provide this service during the evening. To move back home would occur at a major risk, she wouldn't be able to leave the house without at carer and constantly be wired up to the Lifeline service.

Or a nursing home - a place constantly perceived with ailing old people. Sadly, it seems to be a waiting room for death. Yet in the light and the circumstances a place which might be the most effective and "safe" location.

While in an ideal situation surely the children of the person would take some of the responsibilities. But to what extent? Should they become the live in carer, even to the point where it effects their own health? Is it more of the responsibility of a daughter then a son?

The problem is that is all goes back to the feminine traits and occupations of care and provision. Don't get me wrong - we should all care for our families even China makes it law, but why should it be the only responsibility of the daughter. Or is it just my family that is slightly screwed into my mother doing all the work my uncle doing nothing and rarely visiting his mother in hospital? Yes a parent provides, protects and teaches during a child's upbringing, yes they provide love and care but to what extent do they want their own children to give up their own life to provide the comfort and ease in their final months? Is it up to the children to totally change their own life? To build a granny flat? Spend their savings? Just how far do you go?

Apparently to not do so or to not do anything, to not give up and become a carer is therefore showing so very overtly that you don't care. I'm only saying this because it's the battle I feel my mum is currently facing. I know she loves her mum, and it's all to easy to say she should leave her job to care if they suggest she is okay to go home. It's just all so very confused.

Moreover the ease of saying be a carer isn't as easy as it sounds. Yes I respect those that do, its just i'm living in a family which is battling with the current economy to keep afloat at the best of times is never easy, nor is it with the looming and pending death of a relative. Or maybe i'm just making up excuses? Should a person be forced to give up their job to care? How extreme should it go? Yes morally care should be provided, but life especially in contemporary society is never that easy.

But how are the elderly meant to be able to afford the £400 a week care homes? This in itself brings forth new arguments regarding whether, or more likely whom should pay - the children, the person or the tax player? It may be more financially able for middle and upper class families, but what of the working class? Yet the NHS was set up to help the ill, not the elderly. This is were it all seems to go a little hazy. Information and advice is being thrown from one department to the next with no on really knowing the best outcome. A hospital won't throw you out if your unfit and incapable, but to where will they throw you? With limited social care for the elderly able what is the right move?

I guess its all about judging morals. I know we should look after the elderly but what if its just not a viable choice to make? It doesn't just write you off as a bad person because you can't care, its not because you don't want to, but its because in the long run its not in the best interests of everyone.


  1. I see what you are saying ..And it annoys me that in this country the authorities don't do all they could...It's wrong the daughter has to do every thing .But its as in the saying..A daughters a daughter for life, a sons a son till he gains a wife..Hope all ends well for you and your Nan....

  2. Thank you for your comment on my blog....your never to old for a rocking horse....