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Continuing on with difficult subjects as we progress towards Christmas: this time it's the subject of those infirm, aged people who will spend their Festive season in Nursing Home facilities across the world.
For over three decades I visited patients in Aged Care facilities and have witnessed a massive increase in the quality of care provided during that period of time. My first visits were to what were old houses where the bedrooms contained three or four frail aged who often spent the majority of their time in bed, and the stench of urine pervaded the whole "institution". It was not unusual for "restraints" to be used on more difficult patients, which meant that they were literally tied to their chairs; and there was always at least one patient who would call out a garbled cry with the regularity of a metronome, which in retrospect was probably "help"! Remember, this was at a time when the Berlin wall was still standing, before computers were on every desk, and the only phones were fixed to a wall!
Today in Australia, the modern aged care facility is a bright "village" type arrangement with high care units to look after the most frail residents. Each facility has to undergo regular accreditation and the standards that I observed were of the highest order. But all is not sweetness and light for the aged around the world. In 2008 the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance reported that there were 3947 cases probed nationally between July to December 31 2007, and this included cases of serious physical assault, medical mismanagement and failed personal care. Recently in NSW, a fire was started in a Nursing Home and lives were lost as the result of suspect arson - a man has been charged with the offense and is awaiting trial.
In the US, Amber Paley runs a website called Nursing Home Abuse which focuses on the plight of those aged relatives of ours who may be at risk, and gives practical advice on how to ensure that your family member who is no longer able to defend themselves, is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. As well as recording the blight of abuses that she has documented, there is also valuable educational and preventative advice on how to best protect your relatives. The Australian Government Department of Health and Aging also has a useful webpage to help those who suspect that abuse may be occurring.