Elderly suffer in ‘deprived’ old people’s homes

The FXAM want the government to release details on the final draft of the upcoming National Minimum Standards for homes of the elderly. 

An NGO that represents elderly patients has issued a damning account of the undesirable living conditions in some old people’s homes.

“We have heard of cases where patients in the dementia section of a private home were made to stand in a line and were held from behind as the same spoon was used to scoop food into all of their mouths,” a founder of the Foundation for Active Ageing, who chose to remain anonymous, told MaltaToday. “We know someone who has to bring her mother food because the food served at the private home is so dreadful. What about those poor residents who have no visitors?”

The FXAM want the government to release details on the final draft of the upcoming National Minimum Standards for homes of the elderly. Originally drafted by the FXAM at the request of former social solidarity minister Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, some of the proposals suggest that homes will have to employ professionals who speak English or Maltese, provide residents with a varied programme of social activities, and ensure that meals are varied and drawn up by nutritionists.

Crucially, they would require homes to sign a legally-binding contract with each of their residents, detailing the home’s responsibilities and the fees payable by each.

However, the parliamentary secretary for the elderly, Justyne Caruana, has said that the final Bill that will be presented in Parliament will be an “optimised” version of the FXAM’s proposals. The FXAM fear that this is government-speak for a watered-down version of their proposals and have warned that their proposals were the “absolute minimum” of a national set of standards. 

When questioned, Caruana refused to disclose preliminary details about the final national standards that will be adopted in the Bill, including whether the contract will make the final cut. 

As the only NGO in Malta that represents elderly patients, the FXAM have heard first-hand tales that have strengthened their resolve to see standards, including a contract, implemented. 

In one case in a government home, the carers were making themselves toasted sandwiches, a resident asked to have one and a carer brought one to her.

“However, a female carer then grabbed it and thrust it into the bin, proclaiming that it was not meal time for the residents,” the FXAM founder said. “She maintained that they would not be able to cope if all the residents asked for snacks – despite the fact that most of them are either on their last legs or unaware of their surroundings.” 

In another case, an elderly patient at a church home came down with a severe chest infection and had to wait two days before the doctor came to see her. When he did and prescribed her medication, she had no one to buy them for her until a carer agreed to buy them after work and bring them over in his next morning shift. 

“She is still unwell and after two weeks the home have now decided to send her for an X-Ray at the polyclinic,” the founder said. “In the meantime, she has been fed broth daily because she cannot eat solid food. Often it is plonked on her bedside table when she is asleep so when she awakens she does not take it because it is stone cold.”

 “Why do people talk about the elderly as though they are aliens and are oblivious of the fact that the deprived circumstances in which many old people find themselves may also be the ones they too will have to endure when they grow older,” the FXAM founder questioned.

“Why is empathy totally lacking? Apart from my FXAM colleagues, I have never heard anyone say ‘poor guys – I would hate to have to live in a residential home’.  

“Instead, what I hear is a lackadaisical  ‘isn’t it the same everywhere?’. No, it isn’t and the pitiful circumstances in which many of our senior citizens are made to suffer should not be allowed to happen in our ‘Christian’ country.”

More in Health