Kaieteur News – There used to be a time in Guyana when persons took pride in taking care of the elderly and destitute. It seems, however, that times are changing, and that the bonds between the elderly and society are being pulled apart, leaving the elderly at the mercy of an increasingly uncaring society.
One of the most disturbing trends of recent in Guyana is the practice of families dumping their aged relatives at the public hospital and elderly institutions. In the case of the hospital, after the patient has been admitted, the relatives are not seen or heard from and the hospital becomes saddled with the responsibility of finding somewhere for the patient to go after the patient would have been discharged.
In one instance, a man refused to be discharged. And after he left he tried to be readmitted to the hospital because, it would seem, he has nowhere else to go and the hospital serves as a hospice for him. The man no doubt felt comfortable living in the hospital and did not want to leave.
In other cases, relatives are engaged in the practice of abandoning patients at public institutions. They are washing their hands free of the problem and are dumping their problems on government institutions.
The problem is that in Guyana there is no home care service, whereby an elderly person who is sick and requires long-term personalized medical care can be admitted. The Palms is not such an institution.
The Palms is a home for the indigent. It was not intended to provide an avenue for relatives to avoid their responsibility to take care of those whose circumstances are unfortunate. Therefore, if someone is living in a home and has relatives, that person should not be allowed entry into the Palms.
It is certain, however, that some of the inmates at many of the institutions for the aged in Guyana are of such that they do have relatives who can take care of them, but these relatives are not interested in undertaking this responsibility.
Against this background, it is therefore not unreasonable for an institution such as the Palms to deny admission to anyone, once that institution is concerned that the person is not destitute and has relatives capable, but necessarily willing, to take care of him or her.
It will also be asking too much for an elderly home to take in someone who requires long-term medical care. This person should be at home and should be visiting the hospital for treatment, but to simply try to place the sick person at the Palms will burden that institution with a responsibility for which they may not be equipped.
Similarly, there have been situations in the past where children have been taken to the hospital and abandoned. The hospital is then left with the responsibility of deciding what to do with the abandoned patient.
A few months ago, an incident was highlighted in the media in which the hospital took a discharged patient back to the address he had given, the persons there refused to accept him.
And just a month ago, it was reported that two children had been abandoned by their parents, both of whom were said to be alcoholics.
What we are facing in society is therefore a most disturbing trend, one in which persons are refusing to shoulder the responsibility to take care of the elderly.
While it would be very easy to suggest that the government should recognize an emerging need and take steps to create a new hospice for the elderly and sick, when a society reaches a stage whereby children and the elderly are being abandoned, we have reached a sad state of decline.
But sadder is the case in which after a sick person has died, the family does not seem interested in uplifting the body. Now when a society reaches the stage where persons can do something like this, it shows that the rot is not at the head, but is in the body.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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