I was saddened, but I can’t say unduly surprised, at the report by the Health Service Ombudsman, which revealed that in upholding 10 complaints found that “doctors and nurses denied pensioners food and drink, left them unwashed and in some cases prevented their loved ones being with them when they died”. See Daily Telegraph 16TH February 2011 (No National Health Service workers were disciplined over their failure to provide “basic standards of care” for elderly patients, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. By Martin Beckford and Andy Bloxham)
Part of priest’s duties involves visiting elderly people in hospitals and residential homes. I have witnessed some appalling treatment meted out to old people often in situations where the nurses are just too busy to offer the standard of care that one would expect. Many of the Residential Homes leave a lot to be desired too. Often the food in hospitals or in residential homes is truly awful. On one occasion I had lunch with an elderly lady in a Home and was served with what purported to be Shepherd’s Pie; it was totally disgusting: it was full of sugar and I just couldn’t eat it. Goodness knows how these folk manage when they get this sort of diet. I have witnessed the food served in some hospitals; often by the time it gets to the patient it’s cold, it looks unappetizing and I know of cases where the food has been so appalling that relatives have had take food to the hospital for their loved one so they had something nourishing to eat or where the elderly person is too ill to feed themselves but there’s nobody available to help them.
The Daily Telegraph gives of some of the case details and one person responing on its Web Site wrote: “Change your stories to an animal hospital treating horses and leaving them without food or water till they died of neglect - and there would be police called and the people involved would be charged, tried and prevented from future work with horses and it would make headline news.”
It has been said that you can judge a society on the way it treats its elderly. I’m afraid it doesn’t look too good for ours on that basis.