Waiting for the world elder abuse awareness day 2019, we will post everyday a story from real-life situations where the human rights of older people in Finland, Ireland, Italy and Romania were not respected. Their stories illustrate the challenges older people face in having their rights met.
A new face, a few minutes, home become a prison with constantly changing guards
Elsa is a 64 year old practicing nurse nearing retirement. She has worked for many years as a community nurse, providing support to older people and family carers in their own homes. She feels relieved to be able to retire soon, but can’t stop worrying about the future health and well-being of both her clients and her colleagues; explaining that “there is no explanation nor excuse for the mental strain the work causes; it feels inhuman”. Elsa explains how she has visited one particular 85 year old lady a few times and that the client’s daughter counted that her mother had been visited by 40 different home care employees in a month. This worries Elsa greatly, “how can you adequately keep track of someone’s health and well-being in these circumstances?” Furthermore Elsa informs us that, “this lady has dementia and has no idea where she is…..and lies on her bed all day and seems anxious when anyone enters the door or touches her. My heart breaks for her”
Resources for home care have not increased while state support for nursing home care has been reduced. The outcome Elsa believes “is a lot of older people do not get to live as they choose”, it requires, “money and nerve from family members to fight the system and demand good care for their elderly relatives”. In terms of privacy, respect and feeling safe everyone would choose to stay in their own home over a nursing home but as she states in an ideal situation “an older person requiring constant care deserves, and should see the same familiar and trusted carer visiting their home, having time to chat.” Elsa draws comparisons to the past, and how ‘this was how it used to be. But living at home and needing care nowadays means that you will be visited by dozens of care workers a month and for only a few minutes at a time. The meaning of home is lost when home becomes a prison with constantly changing guards. The current system cannot protect older people’s rights.”
Elsa is exasperated by the system that she works tirelessly in, and is convinced that the current situation comes down to the lack of respect that the policy makers and younger generations have for older people. “Is this really how we want to treat our elders? Nobody would wish such treatment for themselves.” She concludes with these thoughts, “I don’t think politicians have any understanding of the reality of home care nowadays, neither the older person, their families or us employees are listened to as experts in the situation that we have to live with every day.”
Elsa’s story highlights infringement of these rights
ECHR Article 3 Prohibition of torture and ill-treatment includes not being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment;
ECHR Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life: to be treated with dignity and feel safe in own home;
CRPD Article 15 Freedom from torture or cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
CRPD Article 17 Protecting the integrity of the person;
CRPD Article 19 Living independently and being included in the community: access to community support service to prevent isolation and segregation
CRPD Article 22 Respect for privacy;
CRPD Article 25 Health: the enjoyment of the best possible health.