[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT: Panorama: Undercover Nurse

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Panorama: Undercover Nurse

I was shocked by the recent epsiode of BBC's Panorama 'Undercover Nurse' for two reasons: That even nurses, the front line in providing care for sick people can be so inhumane, and how elderly people suffer in both pain and dignity while in hospitals.

Filmed by two undercover nurses in NHS hospitals in Brighton, they reveal severe lapses in care and inappropriate nursing standards. The result is elderly people suffering needlessly and dying alone due to lack of funding and sub-standard nurses. Some nurses were openly hostile towards elderly patients and did not provide the basic care such as bringing food, water & medication at given times. So what shocked is that how these people can even become nurses. Just to name a few instances, an elderly man asked a male nurse to help adjust his pillow but the nurse barked back saying 'he was busy' when obviously he was intentionally antagonising.

Another instance was the poor fate of Jessie, a very sick woman who's very basic needs were overlooked. Only the undercover nurse paid proper attention but even that was irregular because she had other shifts. Jessie eventually died alone, but shockingly she was later discovered by the undercover nurse who returned later, realising that nobody had noticed she died a few hours earlier. The appropriate thing would've been to ease her pain and call her friends & family, but none of that happened. In another case, a woman had been screaming for help for 2 hours because she had defacated herself and had no one to help her. Where's the dignity in that? What was also distressing to hear was of some good nurses who were 'dragged down' by the system; they once cared but due to pressure and stress, they simply stopped caring and treated their patients inhumanely.

Having had experience working in a nursing home and hospital, and visting my grandfather on a regular basis before he died (he had Parkinson's and diabetes), and after watching 'Undercover Nurse', I can see how distressing it is to look after sick elderly people. I totally agree on providing sufficient care for our elderly, no matter how incontinent or incompetent they are. Some say it is a waste of tax payers' money to care for them as it only delays the inevitable. And private care? Not if you're high on the income ladder; VHI's Medicare plans are very costly for its long-term care insurance. Although our family was able to afford for our grandfather, I can't help but think of the less fortunate. VHI has decided to increase it's premium by 16%, another severe blow to the low incomes.

But caring for our elderly cannot be singly on the government's shoulders, the family members play an equal if not more important role. According to Age Action Ireland roughly 25% of elderly people live alone, although it's much lower than other European countries. Whether or not they feel lonely or depressed, we must all be respectful and pay regular visits to our elders, especially if they feel lonely, even a phone call. I admit I haven't been paying enough attention to my grandmother but after writing all this I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't heed my own words. If it weren't for them, there would be no us. It was they and the elders before them that set things in motion, that led to this present generation, and we will also do the same thing eventually.

My grandparents did what any able parents did, they looked after their children, and my parents did the same for me, provided care, education and a car if i'm lucky. And what have I done to deserve these gifts? Nothing except for the fact that I was their offspring. And isn't it the luckiest thing of all that any child can have? Of course it would be silly to ask us to repay everything back. So the least we could do is give our elders the attention and respect they deserve. How would we feel if we had to live alone, with our children & grandchildren too busy at work or socialising to pay us a visit? After all, if it weren't for us, there would be no them.