Older people 'dying lonely and ignored'
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
OLDER PEOPLE, living in difficulty at the end of their days, do not conform
to the Government's model of "successful ageing", says Help the Aged. Instead,
they are "the disadvantaged dying", ending their days frustrated and ignored,
argues the charity's new report, Dying in Older Age.
The report says that the care given to older people as they approach death
is often inadequate, badly planned, and unimaginative. They are caught by a
bureaucracy that seems incapable of understanding their needs and responding
appropriately. Dying is "incompatible" with the Government's priority of
"living well" until the end of life. The result is that society minimises old
people's problems and needs.
Unlike the care offered to younger people who are dying, older people are
not given enough psychological or medical support, or palliative care. Their
symptoms are often not recognised, and their care is not planned to prevent
further illnesses. They are also likely to experience social isolation and
economic hardship. The result is that old people often die an unnecessarily
hard death, the report suggests.
In the text, seven old people describe their thoughts about dying. Jean
Buzan, an 88-year-old former gerontologist from Marlow, says: "My fear is
really taking a long, helpless and especially painful time actually to die."
George Fullwood, a 69-year-old retired engineer from Sheffield, says that
when he went to a coronary care unit, the doctor asked if he wanted to be
resuscitated if he fell unconscious, "as if he was asking if I wanted milk in
Dorothy Runnicles, aged 79, from Cambridge, says that: "Only the church
workers faced up to the reality of death itself, and attempted to give comfort,
emotional and spiritual help."
Making more than 30 recommendations to the Government, the professions, and
care agencies, the report calls for care for older adults at the end of their
life to be seen as an urgent public-health issue. It wants social workers and
health carers to have more training in this area, and greater knowledge of
palliative and geriatric medicine. It also recommends getting more feedback
from old people themselves.
Dying in Older Age: Reflections and experiences from an older person's
perspective, £6 incl. postage, from Help the Aged Publishing, 207-221
Pentonville Rd, London N1 9UZ.