‘The elderly and poor would be better off in prison than a nursing home’

Aug 08, 2019
This writer thinks the elderly would be better off in prison, than many nursing homes. Source: Shutterstock.

Going to jail curtails freedom. Becoming frail and needing concentrated medical attention requires a nursing home. In both cases, in my opinion, freedom is restricted.

The prisoner through his actions and life choices is locked away and denied freedom. Prisoners, however, have a right to appeal and have legal aid; sometimes I think their rights may be more easily available than the nursing home residents are.

Unless the older person has a determined an observant advocate; someone who keeps a close watch on their care and welfare, then the resident may suddenly be lost in the system with their basic needs ignored.

Nutrition is a huge consideration. If you compare the array of foods available on a prison diet, which is usually good fresh food and plenty of it, and in some prisons the inmates can even buy and prepare their own.

Compare that with some nursing homes, where an evening meal can comprise of a rather small meat pie or a grey-coloured unappetising blob of scrambled egg! There are good and bad examples of course, and I have worked in nursing homes where the food was excellent.

The biggest problem concerning nourishment is to actually get the patient fed. Dementia, swallowing difficulties and medical conditions are a big stumbling block and to properly feed someone can be time consuming.

Time is of the essence with nursing staff. They are often overworked. I’m aware of restrictions being implemented for things such as feeding and showering of residents.

With up to a dozen patients needing feeding the staff can have a lot of their time taken up which makes it difficult to complete other tasks. I recall one home saying it had a limit of 6 minutes per person for showers. Is this adequate?

In the past, I was given enough time to shower a resident (their clothes would be placed on the pipes to warm), after drying and dressing I still had time to rub in cream for their dry skin and take extra care. We even did their hair and applied a little make-up if they wanted it. I doubt such attention is given today, though I’m not pointing the finger at any of the nursing staff.

What about legal issues if they arise? There will be a nice glossy lawyer ready to claim a fee and fight for the prisoner’s rights. They aim for a good result, claiming of course that the deprived childhood of the prisoner had an effect on their poor behaviour. In my opinion, too many violent prisoners are back out on the streets, in a stupidly short time, with sad results for the public.

If on the other hand if a nursing home resident has been treated badly, where are the concerned relatives? Sometimes there are none. In circumstances where the person has reached the age of 90 or 100, I wonder who is left to be actively engaged in their lives. In my experience, finding a family member to fight for the cause of a loved one in nursing care can come down to sheer luck.

I’ve seen situations where a person had become isolated from family and friends long before they went into care anyway. I recall a famous jockey who I cared for, he had no visitors ever, yet when he died and the press got hold of it, hundreds of people attended the funeral. I just wished they had gone to visit him before his demise.

I sometimes consider prison being a better place! You’ve access to legal aid, counsellors and health visitors, your dietary, dental and health care requirements are met, you can watch television or choose from a range of sports on offer. Nursing homes on the other hand endure staff shortages and cuts to food and medical supplies, doctors speak of being ‘rushed’ and some medical staff are not adequately trained to deal residents’ issues, such as dementia! There is often inadequate food and visitors tend to dwindle as the resident ages.

When I worked in the system, I used to run activities with another carer, it was fun, but times changed. There are those who come to nursing homes at a later stage of life and are not able to participate in activities, but there have also been changes to health and safety rules that mean a lot of activities are no longer suitable! Lack of staff and funding reduces the number of choices for residents and this leads to fewer meaningful activities being offered.

It seems strange to me that a forbidding place, such as a prison, affords more opportunities to inmates than a nursing home does to its residents. Don’t our elderly deserve better?

Are you worried about the care you or a loved one would receive if you went into a nursing home?

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