Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ignored and Forgotten?

This week I have been staying with my mother-in-law helping her come to terms with a particularly debilitating and progressive illness.  It's been my job to coordinate help and care from the agencies - both public and private - and to tie it all together in a way that will help and support her.  It has been a salient reminder first of our own frailty as we face the aging process, and secondly the similarities in the way we want the best care for our elderly and for our young adults with PWS.

Although there are some similarities in the care process, there are also yawning gaps in both groups.  First is the cost of care for the elderly to be cared for in their own homes; over and above what the government can offer, it is expensive without a doubt.  But getting the best care is what we want, and although there are many free services of help health-wise; having someone to live in the house, caring, assisting, cooking meals, running errands, going on outings and making life enjoyable and dignified, needs to be recognised financially if it comes outside the realms of social welfare.  The other option is to live in a sheltered residential environment, or retirement village. 

Our young adults with PWS are just as vulnerable and, quite often, medically frail, as the elderly.  We also want to make their lives enjoyable and to give them dignity and a reason to get up in the mornings.  In most of the Western world, residential placement for those with intellectual and physical disabilities is provided by the government.  Some are really wonderful with kind and caring staff.  Others leave something to be desired.  I expect it is the same with different retirement homes.  The vast difference is, of course, that as non tax-payers, our young adults can't be expected to pick up the tab for more personalised one-on-one care.  And agencies are not able to provide more than their budget allows.

Caring for the vulnerable, be they elderly, or disabled, is not a job that many people choose.  In fact, it takes a very special kind of person to do this, someone who cares for, respects, and really understands the person they care for.

My question is this:  Do we value our elderly and disabled enough to be able to give them the choices in life that they deserve, or are they still an ignored, forgotten part of our society?

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