Out of sight, out of mind: I despair at how we treat our elderly

We go about our own lives as if ageing will never happen to us, but older people are a reminder that it will  

While we waste precious column inches and TV air time on a useless debate about who is worse today, the baby boomer or the millennial generations, the brave generation before the boomers languish in aged care beds, rotting, disintegrating, becoming invisible as the idea of ageing appears to offend us.

There are older people forced into selling their homes for a much in demand aged care bed because there are no family members willing or able to care for them, more often than not the elderly do not wish to be a burden on their families. The fact that they even feel this way is a cultural black mark against our western civilisation. Our oldest culture respects their elders, takes advice from them and in many cases they are regarded as leaders of their people.

Paying to buy a bed in a private nursing home that makes promises to care for them as they would their own family members is a deception that many elderly fall victim to. Shiny entries are all clean and smelling fresh, a few happy nursing home residents are rolled out and potential newbies are shown only select areas while the horrible truth of inadequate staff and facilities are hidden out of sight by profiteers and their agents of gloom.  

My dad is 84, he is currently independent and healthy, living in his own home downstairs in a self contained flat we built from his garage. It is large, clean, sunny, airy, spacious, with a bedroom, a bathroom and it is also a safe aged care space as he continues to get a bit less mobile and a bit shuffly. We relocated from Canberra two years ago when I realised my mother was unwell, she and my dad were not coping at all. Sadly mum lived for only six months after we moved here, she had a fall and broke her hip, we got her home for a few weeks but she deteriorated rapidly. Death did not come gently to her. Dad was shocked to find himself alone and grief stricken over the woman he had shared his life with for nearly 60 years

Dad was never a cook and cleaner as mum did all that type of work, he is a stout Irishman, we immigrated here in 1964. He worked two jobs, one tapping beers in a cellar at night after working seven hours labouring outside installing gas lines or building roads. When I was about seven or eight mum got a job as a barmaid and then later worked for a health fund for many years, she loved working but then she also had two jobs, the one at home and the one she caught the bus, then train to and from every weekday. They were amazing parents in tough times. I am repaying my debt to them for their devotion to me.

I was initially oblivious to my mother’s deterioration, a busy life in Canberra working at Parliament House in my own bubble, my daughter my priority as she hit eighteen and became problematic. My current husband was busy with a demanding job. All of this and I neglected two of the most important people I have been privileged to have in my life, my parents. I spoke to mum often, sent her flowers and little cards. I suspect these were my guilt gifts.  

After Labor lost government and I lost my job, my husband and I decided to take a four month sabbatical and take our caravan from Canberra to Cairns and back. It was magical until we called into my parents home to stay for a few days before heading back to Canberra. The shock hit my like a boulder falling on my head from above. My mother frail, a little dishevelled, shuffling abut the house trying to pretend that all was well. My dad looking a bit haunted and very stressed, he too was not the robust father I saw last time. How had it happened? It seemed so quick, but it was not quick, only my life had passed quickly and I had rarely seen them in three years.  

This is how I came to look after my dad and more importantly how aged care has become a passion.

We would not leave our children alone in a place foreign to them, with untrained and seemingly uncaring staff to supervise them, yet we do this to the many people who have nurtured us, made massive contributions to the country we live in and paid taxes. Many of those elderly people in nursing homes never thought that the houses they had hoped to leave for their children would have to be sold to provide their ongoing care.

What would you do if you came to visit your child in hospital and found them laying in their own faeces with the most unappetising food congealed on a plate next to them, because nobody had time to feed it to them? Would you say anything to the staff if you noticed bruises or bumps, blood stained clothing on any of the patients not just your own child? How is it that we can treat our elderly as discarded pieces of furniture that are worn out and faded? Why do we allow them to become invisible rather than embrace their knowledge, listen to how they lived, how they enjoyed or toiled? We know the conditions are appalling for aged care staff, it does not mean we should accept this as a given.

We go about our own lives as if it will never happen to us, but older people are a reminder that it will happen and it will come upon us just as quickly. We will live longer and with more chronic illnesses, so the chance of being exiled into a nursing home for even longer periods is even greater.

Woken at 6am for a cup of tea if you’re lucky, less lucky if you are a coffee drinker and love to stay in bed until later. Covers pulled back exposing your old bones to a chilly morning or to freezing air conditioning, escorted to a cold bathroom or hefted bodily into a commode chair, then showered quickly, rarely dried off entirely and clothes thrown on if you are unable to dress yourself. If you are relatively good at managing your hygiene, expect to be left alone in the bathroom and told to stay there till someone comes to get you, it can be a long lonely wait in a cold bathroom. Then not back to your warm bed where it is quiet and you can go back to sleep, no, placed in a chair a large lounge area, with a TV blaring and others around you strapped in to their chairs with a sheet or perhaps at a table with a bib on awaiting breakfast, not due for another hour yet. It is now only 8am, the whole day awaits you in this cold, sad lonely nursing home, with only memories if you still have them to keep you entertained. Most of the residents just sleep what is left of their lives as it ebbs away.

I have painted the most dastardly picture as it is the one I am most familiar with, I trained as an aged care nurse, starting aged fifteen, over 40 years ago. There are some good nursing homes, some are well staffed and have nurses who know how to care for skin, to prevent bed sores, to dress wounds and listen to stories. These type of homes are the hugely expensive ones. Sadly many of our residential care homes are poorly staffed, have a lack of facilities, a lack of proper nutrition and are poorly cleaned. Food is provided through a private service, often as cheaply as possible and in small portions.  

I work part time in an electorate office in a low to middle socio economic regional area, the constituents that come to see us have issues with Centrelink, the NDIS, NBN and telcos, aged care or even child support issues. We rarely have people come to see our MP about politics or policies, or even local issues.

Last month a lady came in to the office, she had a soft voice, a tiny little woman, aged around sixty, I will call her Carol. She told me the nice man at Centrelink sent her to us to help. It was during the interview about her Centrelink situation Carol told me about her mother who was in hospital in intensive care, not expected to live for much longer due, allegedly to a lack of care at her nursing home. Her mum is a paraplegic after a stroke and could no longer be cared for at home, so the kids sold the family home to pay for a bed at the local nursing home, a reputable one by all accounts.  

Carol’s mother was in hospital due to infected burns, not from a heater or a fire, but from her own urine and faeces. Left in a nappy for hours and with a urinary tract infection, her urine burned her crepe paper like skin which immediately became infected. The lesions on her skin went untreated for days until she fell our of bed and was found unconscious. The hospital called to advise Carol her mother was seriously ill in hospital, not the nursing home.

We must do better, we must protest, we must fight for the rights of those elderly who can no longer fight for themselves. Refugees are important, veterans are important, abused children and battered women are important. Many of those have advocate groups, lobbyists, voices to speak for them. Who is screaming for our elderly parents and grandparents, our aunts, uncles, friends, as the ones who still have their minds in tact are left screaming inside for some vestige of respect and humanity?  

I will care for my dad until he passes, if it becomes too hard because he gets too ill then I will employ nurses to help me, this cannot be everyone’s choice for many reasons I know that, but house sharing is an option.

In the end it is us, the families that must take responsibility for those who took care of us. If we have folk in homes we must visit regularly, participate in their care, provide food, even washing clothes. This will keep the residential care operators on notice, we must call out anything we see, we must be brave and form little communities within these care homes, so we can keep an eye on each other’s relatives too. Let’s encourage local primary school groups to adopt a granny or grandad, perhaps visiting once a week or even once a month. Not all older folk have families and they too must have appropriate care. Each aged care facility could be a training opportunity for local Tafes once restored, dietitians, assistant nurses, assistant chiropodists, hairdressers, barbers and so on. It can be limitless with the right leaders and the right vision.

We must take time out for elder care the same way we do for childcare.

  • Maree Duffy-Moon is a semi-retired left leaning ALP member and a carer  



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Dementia projects to improve peer support, prevention and end-of-life care

Dementia research teams at UCL have been awarded more than £11 million for projects seeking to create an online support network, improve end of life care, and learn more about how lifestyle change can prevent dementia.

The projects are part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) announcement of £15 million of funding in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for the ESRC-NIHR Dementia Research Initiative 2018. The initiative has funded four projects, three of which are based at UCL and another at the University of Sussex, that will run for five years and start in January 2019.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. An estimated 670,000 people in the UK are acting as primary carers for people with dementia.

One UCL project will develop and evaluate a multicomponent support group for people with young onset and rare dementias, such as frontotemporal dementia or posterior cortical atrophy, which together affect between 5% and 15% of people living with dementia. Many people affected by these types of dementias are not able to meet others in a similar situation for practical and emotional support because there aren’t people with the same type of dementia living locally.

Working with people living with dementia, Professor Sebastian Crutch (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) and his team will develop an online support group that can be accessed anywhere. The project builds on face-to-face support group meetings that the research group runs around the country.

Professor Crutch said: “We’re thrilled that the ESRC-NIHR have agreed to fund this work looking at the value of support groups by, with and for people with young onset and rare dementias. The support groups grew initially out of our local London clinic, but we have a vision that everyone living with, or at risk of living with, a rare form of dementia has access to specialist information, support and contact with others affected by similar conditions.”

Another project team is studying how lifestyle change can prevent dementia, led by Professor Claudia Cooper (UCL Psychiatry) alongside international and national experts, Public Health England, NHS, Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society. The team will target the key dementia risk factors: diabetes and cardiovascular risks, physical inactivity, social isolation, mental illness, alcohol and smoking.

Professor Cooper said: “A third of cases of dementia are potentially preventable and lifestyle changes have slowed cognitive decline in other research studies. Our focus is how these benefits can reach many older people, not just healthy, early adopters who usually take part in research trials.  We want to include older people from more deprived and minority ethnic communities who have a higher risk of dementia.”

In 2020, Professor Cooper and her team will work alongside colleagues in UCL Engineering, led by Professor Miguel Rio, to challenge engineering students to design new technology to help people make the lifestyle changes that reduce dementia risk.

For the third UCL project, researchers at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, UCL alongside colleagues at Kings College London, will co-design and pilot a new model of palliative care for dementia, to ensure that people at the end of their lives receive the right care at the right time in the right place.

The researchers seek to understand current and future need for dementia palliative care and how people with dementia move through the health and social care system. They will develop new models of palliative dementia care that can be delivered by mainstream services, where people with dementia live and receive care.

Dr Liz Sampson (Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, UCL), who is leading the project, said: “This is a hugely under-researched area. We know, given the increasing numbers of people who will die with dementia, we have to find better ways to deliver person-centred care that will improve comfort and quality of life towards the end of life. This programme includes innovative studies involving under-represented groups such as those with rapidly progressive and young onset dementias, working across UCL with the MRC Prion Unit and the Dementia Research Centre at the Institute of Neurology.”

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair, said: “I am very pleased that ESRC is collaborating again with the NIHR to fund research that will make a real difference to the lives of people living with dementia and their carers. The four funded projects will be national and international focal points for social science research in the field of dementia and will deliver UK-wide benefits for people living at different stages of dementia and with both the more common and rarer types of dementias.”

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage MP said: “To make this the best country in the world to live with dementia, it’s crucial we are at the forefront of cutting edge dementia research like this, improving how we support people living with dementia to enjoy the best quality of life possible.”





New Year New Feedback

What a great way to start the year with some great feedback from our clients, our dedication and customised care services mean you get a great service. Talk to us and see how we can help in improving the life of elderly members of your family

"Saints looked after my friend until his last days❤️They did an amazing job with him they respected him and kept his dignity right until the end! Special thanks to Steven and Judith who really were outstanding with him,and so me,other friends and family through this horrible time....From this I met Julie who is the owner of saints who as of now I now work for,she goes above and beyond for people Thank you for everything saints ?? XX They really do live up to the name!Not only amazing carers but Julie has took me under her wing and seen the potential in me,now I’ve done my new 5 in care management at my old job,she has only in the short while I’ve worked with her and trusted me,and believed in me.I hope to be working a long side Julie and the rest of the team for a long time,and progress myself and help saints become even more amazing.She goes above and beyond for her clients and staff and I’ve only witnessed as of yet the best care to the clients,the relationship and trust between carer and client is brilliant ❤️❤️❤️Many thanks"

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Day care for older people

Day care is for older people who prefer to continue living in their own homes but need some support during the day, possibly adding to the support they already receive.The length of time people receive day care for, will depend on their assessed needs.


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Healthcare company advises older people living in care homes to have more sex with these six top tips
It might be a favourite pastime for a lot of people in their younger days, but sex is generally not perceived as an older person's hobby.

When our granny and grandad or our mum and dad move to a care home we expect them to pass their time with bingo and board games, or at least that's what we hope they do anyway.

But a recent survey found many men and women in the UK are actually sexually active into their 90s.

So the Royal College of Nursing has written a detailed guide for care home workers to help deal with sexuality among residents.

The guide covers everything from the rules around erectile dysfunction treatments to how to help older people increase their sexual activity.


Read more -




The patients putting the most pressure on Leicester's hospitals - and how doctors need to change to help them
Some 80 per cent of beds at Leicester’s hospitals were occupied by just 20 per cent of the local population last winter.

The cohort, admitted between December 2017 and March 2018, were all over 70 and the majority were frail or multi-morbid - patients with more than one chronic condition - or both.

The situation is the biggest challenge facing the health service according to Mark Wightman, strategic director at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust (UHL).

He says the statistics mean that the NHS has been a victim of its own success and needs a ‘complete culture change’ to deal with the demand.


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Home Care / Personal Care

Home care is care that allows a person with special needs stay in their home. It might be for people who are getting older, are chronically ill, recovering from surgery, or disabled. Home care services include. Personal care, such as help with bathing, washing your hair, or getting dressed, getting in and out of bed, prompt medication, making cup of tea, prompting SU to eat, help with cooking or preparing a meal, companionship.

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Palliative care

End of life care includes palliative care. If you have an illness that can’t be cured, palliative care makes you as comfortable as possible, by managing your pain and other distressing symptoms.

It also involves psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers. This is called a holistic approach, because it deals with you as a "whole" person.

Palliative care isn’t just for the end of life. You may receive palliative care earlier in your illness while you are still receiving other therapies to treat your condition. 


Who provides palliative care?

Many healthcare professionals provide palliative care as part of their jobs. An example is the care you get from your GP or community nurses.

Some people need additional specialist palliative care. This may be provided by consultants trained in palliative medicine, specialist palliative care nurses or specialist occupational therapists or physiotherapists.

Palliative care teams are made up of different healthcare professionals and can co-ordinate the care of people with an incurable illness. As specialists, they also advise other professionals on palliative care.

Palliative care services may be provided by the NHS, your local council or a charity. Source:

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Who provides end of life care?

You have the right to express your wishes about where you would like to receive care and where you want to die. You can receive end of life care at home or in care homes, hospices or hospitals, depending on your needs and preference.

People who are approaching the end of life are entitled to high-quality care, wherever they’re being cared for.

Who provides end of life care? Different health and social care professionals may be involved in your end of life care, depending on your needs. For example, hospital doctors and nurses, your GP, community nurses, hospice staff and counsellors may all be involved, as well as social care staff, chaplains (of all faiths or none), physiotherapists, occupational therapists or complementary therapists.

If you are being cared for at home or in a care home, your GP has overall responsibility for your care. Community nurses usually visit you at home, and family and friends may be closely involved in caring for you too.

When does end of life care begin? End of life care should begin when you need it and may last a few days, or for months or years.

People in lots of different situations can benefit from end of life care. Some of them may be expected to die within the next few hours or days. Others receive end of life care over many months.

People are considered to be approaching the end of life when they are likely to die within the next 12 months, although this isn’t always possible to predict. This includes people whose death is imminent, as well as people who: *have an advanced incurable illness such as cancer, dementia or motor neurone disease *are generally frail and have co-existing conditions that mean they are expected to die within 12 months *have existing conditions if they are at risk of dying from a sudden crisis in their condition *have a life-threatening acute condition caused by a sudden catastrophic event, such as an accident or stroke

How do I find out about end of life care services in my area? If you are approaching the end of life, or caring for someone who is, and you want to find out about the care and support available, your first step is to speak to your GP or to call the number your healthcare professionals have given you.

Part of their job is to help you understand which services are available locally. You can ask about all sorts of help – for instance, there may be particular night-time services they can tell you about.

Find Me Help has a directory of services for people in the last years of life, their families, friends and carers, based on where you live.

You can search for a wide range of practical, financial and caring services – for example, getting help around the house, taking control of your finances or speaking to a counsellor.

Carers can search for different kinds of support, including medical help, respite cover, carers’ support groups and bereavement services.  



Allied Healthcare to transfer care contracts

A major UK home care provider, offering support to 13,000 older and disabled people, is seeking to transfer or sell all its contracts to other providers.

Allied Healthcare was warned this month by the care regulator about its financial sustainability.

Since then, some local authorities have already taken steps to find new providers.

The company says it is working closely with councils to ensure there is no disruption to people's care.

Allied Healthcare provides services such as preparing meals, washing and giving medication.


Last week, the Care Quality Commission, which regulates such services in England, issued a notice - warning that it had serious doubts about the future of the company.

It was the first time the regulator had issued such a notice about the financial sustainability of a social care provider.

'Challenging environment'

The CQC said it was concerned about the viability of services run by Allied Healthcare from the end of November and was warning councils to make contingency plans.

It said the company had failed to provide adequate assurances regarding future funding and there was now a credible risk of disruption to services.

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