Irish Times Older People Dread Going into Nursing Homes

  • Janet Anand

Press/Media: Research


OLDER PEOPLE’S dread of going into nursing homes is so pronounced that many would prefer to be cared for by their family even when they are experiencing elder abuse, a study has claimed.

A Total Indifference to our Dignity – Older People’s Understanding of Elder Abuse also found a general tendency in society to dismiss people’s views and rights as they grow older, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

The cross-Border study, which was funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development and produced by Age Action Ireland, identified older people’s “dread” at having to go into nursing homes. This fear was felt particularly strongly in the Republic when compared with Northern Ireland due to a shortfall in assisted living and sheltered housing options in the South.

The loss of control over decisions about their care and poor conditions in nursing homes were identified by some of the 58 older people who took part in the study.

“My experience of homes is terrible and the smell of urine when you went in the door . . . there was faeces on the floor when I was going out at 12 noon. It was still there when I came back at half past 10 that night,” one of the participants told the researchers.

Marita O’Brien, an independent researcher who worked on the study, said there was a “fear of the unknown” surrounding nursing homes. People’s views had also been shaped by coverage of scandals at homes such as Leas Cross.

It is estimated 2.2 per cent of people over 65 years in the Republic have suffered elder abuse. However, many people do not report this abuse due to shame or fears they will get their family into trouble, according to the report.

The report found older people felt that signing over their houses to adult children was a “big mistake”. By holding on to ownership of their own homes, older people could retain some control over the decisions about their care.

Older people’s dread of nursing homes can place many families in the position of having to provide care, often with little outside support and beyond their capabilities. In Northern Ireland older people could opt for assisted living facilities, which are an “acceptable option”, according to the report.

Participants in the study said elder abuse was most likely to take place within the person’s home and was rooted in the relationship with family and carers.

The report also identified what it describes as “personhood abuse” – a tendency in society to dismiss older people’s views, rights and experiences. This withdrawal of the attributes that define a person, together with a decline in health, made people more vulnerable to elder abuse.

The report recommends providing greater access to transport and social clubs to boost older people’s social inclusion and make them less vulnerable to abuse.

Period14 Jun 2011

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  • TitleIrish Times Older People Dread Going into Nursing Homes
    PersonsJanet Anand