Lotte Pegler is a journalism student at Highbury College, Cosham. Here she giver her opinion on how we should respect and care for elderly people
My great aunt recently passed away aged 97. Up until recently she didn’t look a day over 60, bustling around in a cloud of Chanel, gin and tonic in hand, with her nails permanently painted scarlet red with lipstick to match.
She was loud, gregarious, fun-loving.
When I visited her just before she died, it was a different story. I sat there for an hour or two just watching as she slept restlessly, every now and again calling out in pain.
She had lived in her flat for 40 years and was working up until 2016. She never had children, instead devoting her life to work, which resulted in countless exciting tales about her world travels.
Her body failed her before anything else. This was the hardest thing to see, and undoubtedly the most difficult thing for her.
She repeatedly told family members that the worst part was losing her independence. Carers washed her and helped her go to the toilet everyday, often a new person from day to day. She found it uncomfortable having a male carer clean her and dress her.
This is not to say the care she received was poor. Never was someone unkind or inpatient, but there were clear signs of inadequate staffing numbers. The ratio of night-time staff was two to 28 residents.
They are overstretched, through no fault of their own.
Night-times were the most stressful for her. She felt lonely and frightened, on top of already feeling demoralised and embarrassed as she waited for a carer to take her to the toilet, if she was lucky.
It’s clear that this major unbalance of staff to resident ratio needs fixing, not only for the residents’ sake, but also to take the pressure off staff.
Surely paying between £4,000 and £6,000 per month justifies adequate care, both day and night?
Lotte Pegler is a journalism student at Highbury College.