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May 11, 2012

Elder Abuse Awareness (EUROPE)

 The new ‘grey market'
By SHILPA NAIR ANAND

A dark side of elder abuse unites the world, feels French author and activist Dominique Predali
In Europe there is a term for them: ‘Grey gold'. In Kerala they have not graduated from being considered a ‘nuisance' in many instances, yet. Europe's ‘grey gold' and Kerala's ‘they' are elders – aged parents (dependent or otherwise), retirees etc. ‘Grey gold' not because they are an asset, intellectually or otherwise, but because taking care of the aged (read nursing homes) is a flourishing business in Europe! The alchemy of economics might convert this category of our population into gold in our country too, like it has in Europe.
Hastens death
When Dominique Predali, French author, journalist and elder abuse activist talks about how Europe's aged are sent to ‘nursing homes' (in our parlance old age homes) hastening the process of their death, one realises there is one more way in which the world is unified: through the abuse of elders.
Dominique has coauthored books on elder abuse. These are ‘On Tue Les Vieux' [On elder killing in France] and ‘Douze Geriatres En Colere' [12 Angry Geriatricians] on elder abuse in the world. Elder abuse is linked to economics. Most nursing homes that ‘look' after the elderly target profits, and in order to generate that costs have to be cut down. “This generally involves cutting down on personnel, food and water…” says Dominique. These cuts have repercussions on the way care is administered to ‘dependants' (elders in need of help). The most dependent are the most abused, she says. Nursing homes for the aged are a necessity in European countries.
“The staff is overworked. How do you clean a bedridden person in five minutes? These people have to be cleaned thoroughly and gently. Each limb, wrinkle and fold needs more time than five minutes. What about feeding? You think any feeding happens?” she asks. Bedsores are common.
As part of the research for the book, she went to a nursing home in suburban Paris at night and found that there was one night watch for around 90 dependent patients. According to her the three common but preventable causes of death of elders are dehydration, malnutrition and bedsores. The others are overmedication and falls. It is shocking to hear stories of elder abuse within the system of institutionalised care. “The institutions which record most profit are the places where the most abuse takes place,” she says. The phenomenon is not unique to France; it is the same as far its neighbours go. It is common in Australia and Canada too. She says, “In Australia, while the budget for prisoners is $5 per meal, for the aged it is $5 for the whole day's dietary requirements.”
Writing on elder abuse is a part of her oeuvre. She has also written exposes on the agri-food business in her book, ‘Votre Caddie En Otage', and on how the pharmaceutical business works in another of her books, ‘La Sante Aux Mains Des Predateurs'.
She says most people who manipulate lives through medicines are not ‘monsters', but ‘regular' people. One of the bosses of a pharma giant told her in chilling terms what a good drug is for him and she hasn't been able to get the words out of her mind. “He said, ‘the best drug is not that which cured but that which made life bearable.'”

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