I don’t blame the nurses. I don’t blame the hospital managers. I don’t even blame the budget cuts for the pain and suffering inflicted on elderly patients.
It is all too tempting to try and find someone to blame for the appalling care identified in the health services ombudsman’s report.
But the thing is in the same hospitals where elderly patients suffered appalling care other patients were receiving excellent treatment.
The same nurses who were indifferent to the needs of elderly patients have proved themselves capable of providing first class care on specialists’ wards. So what’s the answer?
It might be uncomfortable for professionals to admit but the obvious explanation is ageism. An attitude towards older people that sees the incontinence, the confusion, the frailty - but not the grandparent, the husband or wife, the political activist, the person who built up their own successful business.
Why do we expect hospital staff to be any less ageist than the rest of society? The unpleasant truth is that as a society we don’t value people once they become dependent and passive and we don’t value those who care for them.
Is it any surprise if nurses think that toileting, feeding and dressing such patients doesn’t make the best use of their training and skills?
Of course to undertake these tasks in such a way as to protect the individuals’ dignity, privacy and individuality does in fact require considerable skill, training and a positive attitude to old age.
But perhaps the ombudsman’s report highlights that these essentials are missing from the training now as well as the service.