Locked in prison… another view

I would like to say loudly that even though my father in law and some other friends of mine who are now living in residential aged care settings have said things like they felt like they were locked in prison, or they would rather be home, or even that they wish they were dead, rather than be there, that almost all of the staff have been truly amazing. The dedication of the carers and nurses, the activities staff and other personnel has for the most part been nothing short of exceptional, and these people are working in positions that are incredibly demanding, looking after people who don’t really want to be there, in facilities that are often under staffed, with wages that are sub standard for what they do (yes, remember someone working at the zoo who cleans out the animal poo earns about $7/hour more than a personal carer). It seems currently this is the best we can do, and the goal for me is to stop feeling guilty for having had to be involved in placing 3 loved ones into care at all. I know it is the best I (we) could do other than bringing them all home to live with me, so I am just relieved and happy the staff are so caring.

2 thoughts on “Locked in prison… another view

  1. Hi Kate, Thanks for raising a veil on the experiences of a significant number of older people in nursing homes, in terms of their sense of being in a prison. I recall speaking with a wife, deeply anguished by the experience of her husband in a nursing home which included not getting enough food, not being kept clean and not having his medical needs met. She said to me in her European accented English, with tears running down her face, ‘I have seen my husband in a concentration camp once before and I never expected to see him in one again.’ The parallel with a prison is stark: many older people do not choose to be in the nursing home; they cannot come and go as they please; they do not have control over who they live with or even who enters their room, they cannot bring as many treasured possessions as they wish; others have the power.

    I take it from the post today that you have a sense that many staff are well intentioned; I agree. But we also need to make the distinction between critique and criticism. Your critique of the model was not a criticism of the staff or family members (in my eyes). It is important for us all to recognise that the staff work in a model that is very flawed and yet the government continues to invest heavily in this model. It is only when we see and name the limits of the model that we will be able to think about how to enable older frail and dependent people to be where they truly want to be, and that’s probably in their own home.


    • Hi Jane, Thanks for your reply and input. Yes, this blog was a critique of the model of care and not a criticism of the staff or family members – who for the most part – are doing their absolute best in a system that does in fact make many people feel as if they are in prison. Raising the veil is important, as we need governments to understand the system they are supporting and funding flies in the face of true human rights.


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