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Campaign call to show some dignity
11:35am Wednesday 25th July 2012 in Columnists
VIVIENNE KNAGGS, Ryedale’s Champion for Older People, looks at efforts being made to tackle the problem of abuse or neglect of the elderly
OVER the past three or four months I have tried to highlight the amazing work being done in Ryedale by older people to help the community.
It is clear that growing older for many people can be a positive process with many options and opportunities for social occasions, travel, interesting talks, meals out, chances to learn and so on.
But there is another side to the coin. Never a week goes by without a headline in the national press about some abuse or neglect of older people in hospital, care homes or in the community.
This can take many forms. It may simply be a failure to explain things to patients or it can be the inability of a patient to feed himself, and, without help, going hungry.
Or it can be that older patients are ignored, made to wait for help for unacceptable periods of time or spoken to rudely.
Abuse can take other forms as well. We are familiar with stories of confidence tricksters; of advantage being taken of old, vulnerable people in their own homes, or of just being ignored in their communities.
Recently someone said to me, “But that sort of thing doesn’t happen in our Ryedale towns – everyone is so friendly”.
Well hopefully the worst excesses do not happen here, but I do know of cases where some older Ryedale people are suffering. In many instances this is not due to any abuse, but rather to loneliness and isolation.
Research shows that six to 13 per cent of the elderly population feel lonely often or all the time. As the elderly population increases this will become a major problem as the effects of loneliness has such significant impacts on both physical and mental health and puts enormous pressure on NHS budgets to the extent that it is being compared with obesity and smoking. But there are rays of hope on the horizon.
A great deal of work and research is going on to determine ways of tackling this problem. It will mean increasing people’s awareness and most importantly it will necessitate professionals, councils, voluntary groups and communities working in partnership.
The Department of Health in 2010 initiated its Dignity Campaign to encourage people to keep an eye open for instances of abuse or neglect and any old person in need of help and support.
Up and down the country councillors are being asked to sign up to this initiative, but anyone can become a dignity champion, simply by tapping in Dignity Campaign on their computer and finding out about it.
Every county council district has its own older people’s champion and for Ryedale, County Coun Val Arnold holds that responsibility.
Similarly, I am privileged to have that role for Ryedale District Council.
We would be happy to help should anyone have a concern or need further information about these issues.