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Are Our Private Nursing Homes Up To Standard?

Several private nursing homes here in County Tipperary have been closed by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) over the past two year’s, to date.
Details and analysis of HIQA visits have been published, & it is now likely that even more establishments will close later this year throughout Ireland. According to reports, the number of regulation breaches found in these now closed homes are considerable. Each of the centres received, on average, five inspections before facing such closure and despite being given agreed action plans and considerable time to improve their standards, an average of 17 months from their first inspection, these centres still failed to improve adequately.

The inspections found amongst other problems:- (1) Residents living in cold rooms. (2) Bad medication management.  (3) Breaches of fire safety. (4) Elderly people being cared for by inadequate numbers of staff or unqualified persons. (5) Residents suffering from significant weight loss because of inadequate diet. (6) Staff sleeping on their watch, while on night duty. (7) Residents being manually handled without proper due care and attention. (8) Inappropriate language and terminology being used during this care.

Perhaps I am being a bit extreme, but having read some of these HIQA reports, on some of these now closed establishments, one cannot be but reminded of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen where the weak and the aged were seen to have little or no value. Similar thoughts crossed my mind, as I observed people, suffering disabilities, forced to camp out overnight, outside the gates of our Irish Parliament, seeking the return of Personal Assistant Hours removed, without consultation, by the Health Service Executive, earlier in the week. One cannot help but wonder, however, why these nursing home problems are not being recognised by those of us who visit their elderly relatives, in these same private and quite often expensive now private institutions?

I came across this poem recently. Reputedly, it was written by a ‘Dementia Care Patient,’ in Aberdeen, Scotland and the poem was found by nurses, who were clearing out his locker after he had passed away. This poem hopefully will make us all pause for a little reflection and bring a shade of sadness and a blush of shame to the faces of our present leadership.

What Do You See

What do you see nurses, what do you see, what are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, not very wise, uncertain of habit with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply, when you say in a loud voice ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice the things that you do, & forever is losing a sock or a shoe?
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will, with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see? Then open your eyes nurse, you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still, as I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother, brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young boy of sixteen, with wings on his feet, dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at twenty, my heart gives a leap, remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty five, now I have young of my own, who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A man of thirty, my young now grown fast, bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone, but my woman is beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty, once more, babies play round my knee, again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my wife is now dead, I look at the future I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own & I think of the years & the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man and nature is cruel, it’s jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart, there is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells & now and again my battered heart swells
I remember the joys, I remember the pain & I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all too few gone too fast & accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes people, open and see, not a cranky old man, look closer … see ME!

Because of the Health Information and Quality Authority, hopefully good services & standards are now being recognised and nursing homes that continue to breach basic expected regulations will be closed.

Meanwhile, well known Cork story teller, Pat Speight, will visit Thurles Library on Friday October 5th for some intergenerational storytelling. This event is for grandparents and their grandchildren, and for anyone else who just loves a good story! Presented by Europe Direct Thurles for Positive Ageing Week, there will be two sessions at 11.00a.m. and 2.00p.m.  Schools will be invited, but the event is open to the general public too.  As with all library events, it is FREE. You can get a flavour of Pat’s story telling on his website www.patspeight.com

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