Bioethics Blogs

Home Sweet Broken Home

A.E. Randal reflects on the care available to nursing home residents.

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“He made bail.”

I’ve grown accustomed to walking into my Mum’s room and hearing her start a conversation, well, in the middle. As a resident of a nursing home, she spends a lot of time watching the TV news. Her body has utterly failed her, but she still knows a story when she hears one. In this case, she was talking about Oscar Pistorius.

Although, for the most part, my Mum has borne the indignities of old age with good humour, one of the things she misses most is adult conversation. When your table mates in the dining hall are partially deaf, slipping into dementia, or have lost the will to communicate, a nursing home can be a lonely place.

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union Broken Homes report itemizes the systemic problems in long term care: the clientele is older than ever, and their medical needs are more complex, the nurse to client ratio is inadequate, holiday staffing is a nightmare, people only get one bath a week, the meals are…. wait a sec – one bath a week? That one always stops people in their tracks. It’s true, and Mum looks forward to her weekly dip. The rest of us are horrified.

I would point out that the people who care for my Mum wash her every day. It’s called “top and tailing”. These caregivers – underpaid and overworked – are the kindest, most patient people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t do their job in a million years.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.