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EDITORIAL: Welcome move by Government

marciadottin, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Welcome move by Government

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“LONELINESS IS THE FIRST THING which God’s eye named not good,” wrote English poet John Milton. But sadly this fate befalls many in their senior years, resulting from the loss of a spouse, sibling or friend.
But what can surely make loneliness more acute is wilful abandonment; the horror of suddenly being left in a strange place, often by relatives who once craved the attention and care of the one now being abandoned.  
Such repeated rejection of elderly Barbadians has created another blot on our society, as the parents and builders of this society are increasingly being left at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of the island’s main health facility, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).     
Despite complaints and threats from the authorities, however, it continues unabated as heartless relatives no longer see their elders as a priority, or genuinely find it impossible to deal with the physical needs of those who can no longer function or with the psychological ravages of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The persistent abandonment has obviously strained the provision of beds in the QEH’s emergency area and patients’ wards, and has at the same time created unanticipated extra duties for some hospital staff who are basically untrained in the special dietary and therapy-related needs of the elderly.
Government therefore must be commended for the move, debated in Parliament and roundly supported by the Opposition this week, to set aside $244 000 for the purchase of 40 beds, bedside lockers, rails, headboards, footboards, trolleys and other accoutrements for two wards of the island’s largest district hospital, the Geriatric Hospital at Beckles Road, St Michael.
The parliamentary resolution stemmed from a joint approach between the Ministries of Health and Social Care, and is designed to accommodate some of those abandoned elderly folk currently living on the QEH’s wards.
It is heartening to see stakeholders at the governmental level coming together and, instead of repeating threats
to the offenders, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett and Minister of Health Donville Inniss have been proactive while reminding us that, amid the “unfeeling leeches” in our society, there must still exist a spirit of love, caring and appreciation for those who built this country, worked in the sun and rain to ensure that Barbadians received first-class education, a high standard of living and, ironically, the best in health care, among other bequeathed benefits.
We therefore cannot repay them by discarding them on the trash heap of life, thereby replacing familial warmth with loneliness and the shattered hopes of what should really be their “golden years”.
Clearly, we can do better in an environment where the emphasis is on creating a society and not just an economy; and the creative use of available space at the Geriatric Hospital is a good start. This can be enhanced by more specialized training in the medical arena, as well as an educational programme sensitizing the public on how to care for elderly relatives.
The call for Government assistance as well as a multi-sectoral approach in dealing with the looming issue of an ageing society must therefore be repeated and developed into ideas and action.