A consequence of the way society has changed over the course of most of our lifetimes is that fewer and fewer of us live close to our parents. The increase in university education, and careers that take us away to Dublin, or London, or further afield has meant, amongst other things, a collapse in the support structures provided by extended families, and consequently, an increase in the demand for private childcare. In those families where there are two parents, it is increasingly rare for both parents not to be working, adding to the pressure.

The impact all of this has had on childcare costs is well documented, and the subject of permanent political pressure. But at the opposite end of the scale, there is a cost as well. Just as our parents are increasingly unable, for geographic reasons, to aid us with childcare, so too are many families unable to help elderly parents when they reach the age where they need constant assistance.

Consigning a parent, or an elderly relative, to a nursing home is therefore often the only available option for families. Doing so comes at an emotional, as well as a financial, cost. Usually, the people we entrust to these homes have looked after and loved us for our whole lives, assisted us financially, and emotionally, and generally had a large hand in making us the people who we have become.

The decision to place a relative into a nursing home, therefore, is a painful one. We do it primarily because there is no other option. Because they need care and assistance that we, their families, can no longer provide. Nursing home care is exceedingly expensive. Increasingly, financial brokers offer packages to fund such care on the basis that an older person’s house will be sold after their death to pay the costs of their final years.

So, when something like this happens, it is a horrendous, and devastating, breach of trust:

ALLEGATIONS HAVE BEEN made regarding incidents of abuse, unexplained injuries and poor hygiene standards in nursing homes in Ireland, according to documents released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act. 

The documents show that between June and October of this year specific concerns were raised about staff shortages, residents falling, nutrition, and fire and safety issues…..

…In one instance, a concerned person (CP) claimed that a shortage of staff was impacting the care of residents and that “soiled sheets” had not been changed.

Another person alleged that there were “poor hygiene standards in the rooms of dementia residents” in the nursing home in question.

They claimed that there were “faeces on [the] resident’s bedroom floor” and that there were “no paper towels in the bathrooms”….

…One person claimed that there was “unexplained bruising” on a resident’s face. A number of complaints surround concerns over a general lack of care within the nursing homes in question.

For example, it is alleged in one case that residents are being left sitting in their wheelchairs all day, due to a “shortage of chairs for them to sit in”.

In another instance, it is alleged that “residents are verbally abused by care staff”.

If you haven’t already, head over to the Journal.ie and read the full report. Their journalism here is proper public service work.

As a society, this is something we are going to have to come to terms with, and address. It’s easy to click past stories like this because they don’t affect us, but it is very likely that the majority of us are going to end up in a place like this. And if not us, then many of our parents will.

If you read this website regularly, then you’ll know that Ireland spends €18billion a year on health care, and that much again on social protection. Those two departments receive almost 60cents out of every euro spent by the Government. Both have seen their budgets dramatically increase over the past decade.

How, then, are we in a situation where our old people are being left in rooms with poo on the floors? How are they being left sitting in chairs all day, wearing nappies, because nobody is available to take them to the bathroom? Remember, if you will, that most of these places charge money, and lots of it, as well.

There are no immediately obvious answers. Anger isn’t always useful in politics or public life, and it is too often deployed at the wrong targets. People get absolutely furious over some banker getting a bonus somewhere, and it is understandable, but pointless. A banker getting a bonus might be undeserved, but usually it won’t actively harm you, or your family. This, on the other hand? This is a genuine cause for absolute public outrage.

The forthcoming general election will, if the Government has its way, be about the economy, and the progressive liberal agenda on social issues. That’s because those are two pretty easy topics. The Government doesn’t do much to affect the economy, day to day, and it is remarkably easy to pass a law letting people change their birth certificates, or whatever, and you get to call yourself compassionate. Issues like this one, though, are actually hard, and require actual compassion, which is why there’ll be a real effort to avoid them in an election campaign.

Don’t let it happen.