For a long time now the Daily Mail has been running a campaign under the banner “Dignity for the Elderly”. They are to be applauded for championing the cause of older people and for highlighting some very important issues. But, it’s not about dignity any more, it’s about willful neglect, abuse and untimely deaths.
The term “dignity” was first introduced by the Government and I believe it was a deliberate attempt to blind people to the reality of the problems with care of the elderly. Further trivialisation was added by the Department of Health’s appointment of Michael Parkinson as a celebrity Dignity Champion. He then set about asking lots of well intentioned people to sign up to supporting the dignity clarion call. These two profile raising approaches fall a long way short of what is now required. The elderly need a lot more than their dignity restoring. They need honesty, outrage, resources and compassion. The HONESTY to put the full scale of the everyday failure in our health and social services support for older people. OUTRAGE at the neglect of individuals by their relatives, the state and society as a whole. The full RESOURCES to face up to the tidal wave of baby boomers who are about to multiply the issues tenfold as they become pensioners. Finally the COMPASSION to acknowledge that this is a generation of immense value who carried us through two World Wars and the privation that followed. They deserve better. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and that is where we are condemning many elderly to go at the moment.