Recently Australians were bombarded with Elder abuse week campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, hurting and neglecting the elderly is bad….very bad. But the thing that got on my goat, was the radio and Tv campaigns of our government. Big brashy headings and lines such as “the government wants top stamp out elder abuse”, “call this hotline is you suspect elder abuse”, etc, etc. These are great things, don’t get me wrong. But what happens if I report elder abuse. Some may get charged, probably the carer, then what……. I tell you what….. NOTHING.
The elder at risk may end up getting shoved with either another relative that does not have capacity to care to the aged person in question, or they get palmed from bed to bed at various facilities. Or even better, returned to or never left the person accused of the abuse. But why are carers abusing their elderly family members?? Did they grow up thinking one day I’m gonna be a shit bag to my mum, and not change her diapers all day when she gets old….I would think or at least hope not. I would imagine the majority of Australians did not grow up with this as a goal.
However the reality is, any of us at any time could become a carer to an elderly or perhaps younger family member. This would mean juggling your career, mortgage and a family of your own. Having an elderly person in your care requires many weekly medical appointments, juggling meal prep, bathing, cleaning and extra care. Extra can include finger painting (in the toilet, if you know what I mean). This new carer role literally comes with a lot of shit. As people age cognitively they decline and can revert to child like behaviours. As your children age however, they tend to build skill and each day gets easier. However with the elderly they do not. Each day was worse than the last.
So now you have this elderly person in your care. You have modified the hell out of your house so they can move around freely, often with aids that are smashing the crap out of your walls. Your toilet has more bars and poles then a strip club. You have invested thousands in equipment. Your house now looks like a hospital….. Welcome home. Put that aside, its cosmetic you tell yourself, I can put it back the way it was before. You tell yourself your selfish for morning the loss of your once beautiful house, that you still owe buck loads of money on.
Your beloved elderly family is getting more frailer and more child like in their thoughts. Every day you have to think what can I do to reduce the risk of them harming them selves while I am at work. You start leaving prepared meals and snacks. Pre cut and ready to eat so no burns or cuts occur, you’d hate to be seen as neglectful. Not to mention they can no longer use a knife or fork. Fine motor skills have gone out of the window. They have their regular medical and specialist appointments but they also have weekly accidents or illness that also need attention. Sometimes its self inflicted, and sometimes just mother nature being a bitch. I hope you like their GP cause you are gonna get intimate with that person. You will see that GP more than you see your friends or other family members.
But oh crap… mortgage needs to be paid. You drag your second hand arse to work and try and function to the best of your ability. But you have more time off then a new mother on maternity leave and your boss is getting real shitty. But there is no end in sight, as the aging family member is only getting worse. So your career is now on the rocks. I hope you didn’t get too excited about having a carer cause its gone now.
So your overwhelmed to say the least. You talk to what friends and family you have left that want to speak to your pathetic broken spirit. Their advice…. just put her in a home. WELL F$@# ME JANET, why didn’t I think of that (insert heavy sarcasm here). Guess what…. there’s a minimum 5 year wait. OK, so you get some services in. An Aged Care assessment reveals your aged family member has significant disability an you would benefit from extra supports. However these are capped and still cost you money. Your aged family member needs support to shower, dress, eat, clean, cut toes nails, clean ears, wiping after toileting etc etc. By now all your other family has abandoned you, they don’t want the burden and avoid you like the plague. Your friends stop coming because they don’t like the old smell in the house (yes its a thing), the disability toilet makes them uncomfortable and dear old family member often rants and raves not knowing what they are talking about (this makes friends uncomfortable). To be honest I cant blame them, some might call them bad friends, but this is the reality of the situation.
Sooooooooo, now you have a burnt out, lonely and isolated carer. Maybe they loose their job completely, or maybe they just cant leave their family member home alone enough and had to retire. They may loose their house and have to return to renting. Maybe they already renting and can longer afford the rent where they were. You say Centrelink is the answer……. wrong. When you do get poor enough to be on Centrelink your well and truly up the creek with no paddle financially. And for most carers this is where they end up. Now… lets ask again….Why are carers abusing the elderly.
What supports are there for carers? To put it short nothing….. well nothing of value. They are suffocating in financial woes, endless chores and worry, their mental health is often significantly impacted, they may have lost many friendships. They have sacrificed a lot to care for their family member. Carers were not trained to be carers, it was thrust upon them. They love their family member, hence why they haven’t turfed them onto the street. But they are stressed, stressed beyond belief. The respite that is available, is expensive. Even if it is subsided you are looking at about $380 per week of respite. For many carers this is too much.
The government campaign stating they support the Aged Community and want to stamp out elder abuse was nothing short of an act. Its an insult to our aging family members who for the majority, worked hard in this country, paid taxes and are the reason we have the “good life” here in Australia. This campaign is an outrageous insult to the aged and their carers. If the government really cared, they would support carers with education and training to do their caring role, they would fund a lot more than they do and they would make accessing these supports easier. Lets be honest the longer an older person stay home the cheaper it is for the government.
If you get opportunity to help a carer, please reach out and do so. They do an amazing job and some of them are looking after your family members as well. Offer to baby sit the elderly person so they can get out, offer to pay for respite if that’s not your cup of tea. Take them out for a cuppa. However you help, is better then the nothing they currently have. Lets create a ruckus and let the government know this is not ok. Thanks for reading my rant.