Occasionally, and even more in recent months, we keep hearing about how elderly people are being treated within the health service. The latest spate of abuses came only days ago. An old man, who lay on the floor of his house for three days, died before being found, another was sent away from two private hospitals after hurting his leg only to endure 13 hours at Nicosia General Hospital’s A&E.
Add to this more than 700 calls per year about abuses in old people’s homes and elsewhere, horror stories about elderly women being tied naked or half naked to hospital beds and in one case in a mixed ward. Apart from a couple of dedicated NGOs and the children of these abused people, no one seems to care.
Perhaps a bigger issue than the quality of healthcare and the lack of humanity displayed by some ‘caregivers’, is the blasé way this is viewed by society. Elder abuse is not a headline-grabbing issue. Hardly anyone reads these reports and few, if any, makes any comments. For a society that has an opinion on literally everything and especially the various categories on the victimhood ladder, old lives don’t seem to matter much at all.
Many elderly people are just as helpless as babies, but if infants were treated this way society would be shocked as it is when some animal is badly treated, and the outrage mill grinds into overtime on social media. Elder abuse? So what? Who cares?
Where is the red button service for the elderly that could have saved the life of that man who lay on the floor for three days or the woman who fell in her bathroom and lay there for 18 hours? She was lucky, someone cared enough to come looking for her.
Why are the elderly seen by governments as a problem that needs solving? Why are people told all the time to engage in healthy lifestyles and live to a ripe old age but when they get there, the reality is that health systems treat them as disposable? Because they’re going to die anyway so why spend the money?
Most elderly people do not want to live in a dependent situation, take up resources or be a burden. That’s a fact. Half of assisted suicide requests in Canada for instance, have nothing to do with escaping a painful death. They are people who don’t want to be a burden to their children or society.
The least that can be done for those who are reaching the last stage of their lives is to treat them with a bit of dignity, not scorn. Yet that is what we’re seeing. And to those who could not care less, they too will find themselves helpless one day should they live long enough.