The British Society's Neglect of the Elderly


Over the past decade, the issue of aging has gained recognition albeit at a slow pace. In this regard, 1999 was declared as the International Year of the Older Persons by the United Nations. In as much as this action was favorable to the elderly in the society, much consideration is yet to be given to them. The greatest concerns of the society’s issues today neglect matters concerning the elderly. One of the societies that have no place for the old is the British society.

According to a recent review by the Workplace Retirement Income Commission, millions of Britons face a rather ‘bleak future’ due to cracks in the private sector pension provision. Additionally, concerns have been raised by the Health Service Ombudsman indicating that approximately 20% of complaints received about the NHS are somewhat connected with the care of the elderly in the society. This has been confirmed by a dossier that contained stories about the poor level of care the elderly patients receive. Among the role models today, few are actually old, which indicates that the society has very little regard for them.

It is regrettable that many people today find it difficult to comprehend the worrying facts, as if they themselves were not  inching closer to their own dotage every day. According to the 2012 survey, the society believes that an old age begins at 59. It becomes quite easy for one to offer an octogenarian a seat in a bus, or let them pass the queue, but not many can afford to spare time and engage in  conversations.

Age Discrimination

On the whole, todays’  elderly in our society  have experienced a part  of the most turbulent century in the history of humanity. It is therefore unfortunate to ignore them or even pity instead of respecting them (Sargeant 2006). A report by the European Social Survey indicates that approximately two out of five old Britons have been disregarded or patronized as a result of ageist views (Sargeant 2006).

The same report indicates that a good percentage of Britons are of the idea that the elderly contribute very little to the economy, and are  a burden on healthcare services. According to the same report, there are great fears in relation to age discrimination in the place of work. This is because many respondents are concerned that most employers show preference to people in their twenties, over those in their 50s (Sargeant 2006).

Living in Poverty

In most cases, the elderly in Britain get poorer deals than in other European countries. Additionally, they are more likely to be afflicted by ageism in health care in their daily lives, than in other countries like the Netherlands and Sweden (Borland 2012). The elderly in Britain are also said to be far lonelier. As a matter of fact, they are likely to go for several weeks without having an opportunity to see friends or family (Borland 2012).

According to the same report, carried out by think-tank Demos,  a greater proportion of the elderly are living in abject poverty than in some European countries. The report indicates that the money they receive as the basic pension rate is not enough to ensure a sufficient standard of living (Borland 2012). The report further indicates that it is prudent to let volunteers provide the elderly with more social contacts as well as better connections to the communities they dwell in. This, according to the report, has the potential of creating a knock-on beneficial impact on the life of the elderly (Borland 2012).

Abuse and Neglect

By and large, the elderly in Britain are mistreated and often ignored by the society. In the United States, there has been legislation related to the abuse of the elderly since 1980s, however, in the UK, a major catalyst came as a result of the British Geriatrics Society Conference. The conference discussed  various kinds of abuse the elderly go through. As a result, a number of projects as well as researches were carried out.

The first one of its kind was a paper published in British Medical Journal, which focused on  about the abuse of the elderly. Published back in 1990, the report described kinds of abuse that older people go through in the hands of those responsible for taking care of them. As a result, a charity was established to deal with issues concerning the abuse of elders.

That was followed in 2004 by a major report by the House of Commons Committee.

The report highlighted the nature  of problems faced by the elderly. It also came up with a number of proposals. Those included Care Home inspection as well as compulsory training of professionals working with the elderly on elder abuse. The Committee also recommended a compulsory local availability of multi-agency guidelines as well as better regulation of care staff. However, in spite of all these efforts, the elderly still suffer from different types of psychosomatic, bodily, sexual, and pecuniary abuse including neglect.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), there are many cases of brutality, lack of sympathy, as well as misdeeds by carers who are responsible for visiting the elderly in their homes and assisting them with dressing, washing, and eating (Laurance 2012). The elderly people are usually provided with care in their own homes. This is executed by carers who are wholly or partly financed by local authorities (Laurance 2012).

The inquiry by the ERHC found out that in some instances, the elderly are put to bed in the afternoon and left in dirty sleepwear till the following morning. In most cases, they are strip washed without any regard for their dignity (Laurance 2012). Some elderly go to bed hungry simply because caregivers often leave food out of their reach. Unfortunately, the elderly also often lose their pensions through systematic robbery.

In one instance, it was found out that a care worker declined to assist an old woman who was stuck in the toilet of her bathroom. Her calls for assistance were met with utter arrogance, and eventually she had to free herself (Laurance 2012). In yet another case, a carer watched the woman she was supposed to take of, a 76-year old woman with cancer, struggle to microwave a meal. The carer claimed she would not do it due to “health and safety” reasons. Such callousness is very common among caregivers in Britain (Laurance 2012).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that there were serious defects in the provision of fundamental care to the elderly. This came be revealed after they had carried out several unannounced visits (Laurance 2012). The commission discovered that in most cases caregivers spoke in patronizing ways. At times, curtains were not closed to protect the dignity of the elderly. In some cases, food was left out of reach of the  people being provided with care (Laurance 2012).

The kind of abuse that the elderly go through in the hands of the carers is appalling. For instance, the ambulance personnel are permitted to take a patient down the stairs into the ambulance, but are regrettably not permitted to assist them up the stairs to beds (Laurance 2012).

Case Study: A Despairing Care Worker’s Account

Carol, not real name, is a care worker for Jenny (named changed), an elderly widow discharged from hospital following a hip operation. Jenny, actually a virtual prisoner in her own home, cannot even negotiate the steps to her door (Lewis 2012).  On one routine visit, Carol reached out to Jenny’s arms for a hug. Tears flowed down Jenny’s face, saying that she had been yearning for somebody to talk to. As a paid worker, Carol is only supposed to spend 15 minutes with Jenny, in order to carry out her professional responsibilities (Lewis 2012).

Apparently, Carol’s visit was the sole human contact for Jenny throughout the whole day. Sometimes,  care givers sent to provide care are not even able to utter a word in English. To make matters worse, care givers are supposed to spend just 15 minutes with the clients (Lewis 2012). Any extra time spent on a visit means the care giver has  to give an explanation to  the employer. In most cases, these employers make consecutive appointments for the care givers throughout an entire afternoon (Lewis 2012).

In Carol’s case, she found it difficult to abandon the ailing Jenny. As a result, she took Jenny in her arms and embraced her until she stopped crying. After having a chat over a cup of tea, the simple act of kindness extended for half an hour, meaning that Carol was late for her next appointment. She did not get to her next appointment, meaning the agency had to send a standby care giver, who therefore got the eight pound fee Carol should have been paid (Lewis 2012).

As a result of talking too long with Jenny, the agency which provides care for the elderly on behalf of local authorities warned Carol for lack of professionalism and poor promptness. It is sad to note that this was not an isolated case. This is because providing care to over one million elderly people in their homes has turned out to be a very big business (Lewis 2012).

Consequently, little time is spared for compassion. Care givers visit the elderly to provide assistance with washing, dressing, cleaning, meals and medical care (Lewis 2012). Thereby the sick and the elderly are kept out of rest homes and are relatively independent (Lewis 2012).

However, this system is bogged down with regulations and red tape bureaucracy. Additionally, the cash strapped councils grapple with the challenges of taking care of the rapidly increasing number of older people. As a result, the elderly have to look after themselves in horrendous nastiness.

Due to  long hours and poor pay, most of the agencies employ immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, who cannot effectively communicate in English. This is a big challenge especially to the rural folk who are not used to foreign accents (Lewis 2012). With difficulties in hearing, some of the elderly people are usually confused and afraid of the foreign sounding accents. In most cases, they cannot understand what e foreign care givers say (Lewis 2012).

Another challenge faced by the elderly in Britain  is loneliness. This is really tear-jerking.  The British society has let down the old among them. Sometimes, it is not necessarily the professional care givers that are not compassionate. Without exemption, the elderly cherish talking about their sons and daughters, who they proudly love.

Considering the successes these people have made in their lives, it baffles the mind why their children cannot spare time to visit their parents. One can often find a lot of pictures of happy grandchildren on the walls of the elderly homes, but apparently, they seem to never have time to visit (Lewis 2012).

Carol talks of John (named changed), an 83 year old former policeman who dutifully served his country and provided for his family in the prime of his life, but who now lives alone in starvation (Lewis 2012). Even though his family promised to deliver food to him, the provision is never regular enough. At one time, Carol found a piece of rotten cooked meat, almost a week old. Shockingly, John had to let it last a few more days, to eat a bit of it every day (Lewis 2012).

It is evidently appalling for a man of his age to be eating stale food. Carol also noted that John was seriously emaciated. His skin was stretched out excruciatingly over each rib, with his shoulders poking out at angles. Suffering from pangs of hunger, John looked like a victim in a concentration camp (Lewis 2012).

Slowly starving to death, John completely lost his self-confidence. Without a computer at home, it was difficult for John to comprehend the idea of buying food online. With his small police pension, John is worried about spending his money, for the fear of running out of money (Lewis 2012).

According to Carol, there is no profession that burns an individual out like care giving. The long working hours, back-breaking physical work, as well as the despondency that caregivers witness on a daily basis means that they find it difficult to last in the profession for very long (Lewis 2012). As a result of the economic downturn, the situation is likely to worsen.  The rising cost of living will prevent people from working as caregivers. As a matter of fact,  fewer altruistic individuals are ready to take on the profession (Lewis 2012). Despite the fact Carol took time to reason with the agency administrators, they are less concerned and  not willing to improve their services. Instead, their main interest is to make as much money as possible (Lewis 2012).

Declining Elderly Care Services and Poor Policies

In some of Britain’s poorest areas, services for the vulnerable elderly have been cut. In spite of the rising demand for assistance, research indicates that a number of local authorities in England have abridged the amount of resources they spend on the care of the elderly (Campbell 2012). The reduction of money spent on the elderly is causing them to live in isolation, full of fear. This is mainly because the crucial services they depended on have gradually eroded (Campbell 2012).

According to a study carried out by a management consultancy firm  Candesic, the councils have gone as far as to tighten eligibility criteria. This has in turn locked out many elderly people, so that  fewer older people receive  care today than in the past. Unfortunately, higher charges have been imposed on the care services (Campbell 2012). Ironically, while the amounts spent by the councils on personal services  have risen, the amount out of those budgets spent on the care for the elderly has greatly fallen (Campbell 2012).

Surprisingly, local authorities have given priority to services meant for children, the mentally ill as well as the disabled. This basically means that services meant for the elderly have experienced a reduction in allocation (Campbell 2012). Today, the elderly in Britain receive cheaper domiciliary care, in comparison to the residential or nursing care. Apparently, in spite of the demographic pressures increasing the need for elderly care, only 20% of the local authorities have increased the budget for elderly care (Campbell 2012).

In spite of the government’s denial concerning the decrease in funding and services for the elderly, the Candesic report is a clear indication that the most vulnerable people in the society, the elderly, are bearing the brunt of the government’s devastating policies (Campbell 2012). Consequently, the elderly are living in isolation and abject squalor, even as they grapple with the challenges of living without the care and support they badly need.

It is worth noting that people at the lowest end of the income scale are usually wholly dependent on the care of the local authorities (Campbell 2012). It is therefore ironical for the authorities to cut down  on expenditures for the vulnerable in the society. This is an indication that Britain is letting down its most susceptible  citizens at a time when they most require the support of the society (Campbell 2012).

The Elderly Suffer Poor Care in Hospitals

According to a health watchdog,  most elderly patients do not receive proper care or feeding. This is mainly  a result of lack of benevolence and sympathy. The health watchdog, Care Quality Commission (CQC), asserts that healthcare staffs pay more attention to paperwork than  people they are supposed to minister to (Riddell 2011). According to the commission, it has become a norm for doctors and nurses to ignore  calls for assistance. Additionally, they abandon the assistance they are supposed to offer in washing and helping the elderly to eat and drink.

Spot checks undertaken by the commission revealed that a good number of  geriatric wards were in dire need for improvements, while about 20% did not meet the required legal standards. The report also indicates that the elderly, who account for nearly half of the total number of in-patients, were not receiving the basic care they needed due to a culture of neglect among the healthcare staff (Riddell 2011).

Shockingly, there were cases in which the elderly patients were left to rattle their bed nails, or hit water jugs on tables, just to attract the attention of the nurses. According to Dame Williams, the chairman of the Commission, it is deeply disappointing that well over half of the hospitals have fallen short to some degree. The Commission is also concerned that a lot of focus is laid on the unit of work, instead of working with individuals the staff are  ministered to (Riddell 2011).

According to Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, it is objectionable when standards of dignity are not met. Additionally, he is of the opinion that any nurse witnessing these atrocities should be encouraged to report on it to the authorities. The Health Secretary also encouraged people whose relatives had undergone or continued to go through the atrocities to report.

Additionally, the Health Service Ombudsman  discovered that old citizens over the age of 65 were not receiving even the most essential standards of care. Most of the vulnerable old people were left starving, squalid and provided with incorrect medication (Riddell 2011). This was as a result of lack of concern among those responsible. Research has also found out that approximately 15,000 pensioners die precipitately annually due to late diagnoses. In most cases, they are less likely to be operated on, as compared to younger patients (Riddell 2011).


So, is the British society the place to take care of the elderly? Certainly not! The elderly in Britain suffer a lot of neglect. The society has abandoned them to fend for themselves, yet most of them were very dutiful at the prime of their age, working hard and paying taxes to the government back then. It is just fair that the British society should change and provide appropriate and sufficient care to the elderly. After all, there is no such thing as eternal youthfulness. At some point, the youthful today will eventually grow old and will also depend on others to live decent lives.

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