Monday, 28 September 2015

Older people deserve better

The word 'deserve' disturbs me and implies that whoever ‘deserves’ has had to have done something to earn whatever is on offer. This actually implies an inequality for some people. Those people might be you, me, your sister, brother, mother or father. I have always been interested in how the use of language to describe people and practices does tend to influence attitude.

So I want to concentrate on the fact that we need to remove that word 'Deserve' and focus on rights for all people, recognising the humanity in us all.

It is amazing and indeed shameful that older people felt the urgent need in Wales to actually produce an explanation of what Human Rights meant to them.

But we must understand why we still have to use the word ‘Deserve’ when we consider older people's care and support. I think this is because there is still evidence out there of failed care, omissions of services and public inquiries into abuse.

My contention is that we are continually being pushed into lobbying for better services for older people, and using terms such as ‘Deserve’ indicates that society and public services still do not understand ageing or adequately recognise the real cost and benefit to supporting older people to maintain their health and wellbeing.

Similarly prejudicial remarks have long been recognised as inappropriate when applied to, for example, gender or ethnicity. So it seems that older people are still the last frontier and we are still having to use this term to get what older people actually need to enable them to experience a higher quality later life.

The attitudes that fester the lobbying for better services I have just mentioned affect assessments of need and packages of support. The customary diagnostic rigour which, for instance, healthcare professionals have been trained to apply as standard, can sometimes be mysteriously replaced for older people as patients by ageist therapeutic emptiness. In other words, nothing substantial to help them maintain their health. Professional values and training still overly prioritise the acute, the rare, the high-tech and the cure, and need to change to reflect the reality of modern health and social care practice which now is beginning to embrace, in partnership, the work undertaken within housing services for older people.

If we are providing a public service based on need and preventing ill health, and also implementing action on health and wellbeing as equally important, then we must give adequate and full assessments to all the people who actually turn up in the system, rather than for those whom we would find more personally engaging, or those ‘consumers’ who shout loudest.

It's great that the housing sector is championing a change in the approach to support for the older person and I am proud to be a part of that. However, there needs to be much more commitment all through the health system and action undertaken now which recognises the work that we, the housing champions for older people, have done to promote the rights of older people to continue to live independently and to experience a good later life.

Lets get to a situation in Wales where we never have to use the term ‘Deserve’ any more.

Lorraine Morgan
Board Member, Care & Repair Cymru

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