The vulnerability of the elderly
The first thing that I want to say is that most carers are doing a good job, most try really hard and genuinely care about the people they are looking after. Most paid carers are honest, compassionate and hard working. But…
I’ve considered recently just how incredibly vulnerable the elderly are, especially those with memory issues. I was sitting in the lounge of a care home listening to a resident call out to a carer or anyone for help and wondered to myself, if she was claiming that no-one was helping her, who would believe her? Someone did go to her in this case, but it made me wonder.
I’ve had residents claim that money went missing, I had one resident of a care home claim she’d lost £1,000, but as she was never given this much money, it is safe to assume that this didn’t happen, but she did have smaller sums and it is entirely possible that this was stolen, as she would on occasions go out and needed money to do things she wanted to when she went out, but there was no mechanism to deal with the loss of for example £10 and to a carer on minimum wage that could be enough of a temptation.
I’ve had a family member say that when they went to the care home and gave their father a bath, the watch that he had on his wrist didn’t belong to him. I’ve heard that kind of tale lots of times, that someone with memory problems sees for example a watch and thinks “I have a watch, it must be mine” or something like that and picks it up. Things go missing, but how do we tell apart the things that are intentionally stolen for personal gain and things that mistakenly go missing.
The Mid Staffordshire scandal in 2009, which was reported upon in the Francis report issued on 6 February 2013 was about the ill treatment and lack of basic care within the hospital, but the fact that this went on for such a long time is testament to how voiceless and disempowered these ill and vulnerable individuals were.
I don’t know the answer, other than to take seriously any allegations and to vet individuals caring for these vulnerable people. We then take it on faith that they are doing a good job and hope our faith is well placed. The elderly are very vulnerable and the more that can be done to protect them and other vulnerable groups like them the better.