Analysis

Listening to the voices of abused older people: should we classify system abuse?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2697 (Published 04 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2697

The contributions of those “retired” often prove invaluable:

Yesterday I was at a consultation event held by Healthcare Improvement Scotland which sought wider views on a proposed national approach to “Scrutiny” of health and social care in Scotland (1). At the meeting I met a number of individuals who had been designated “retired” on their name badge. I was not surprised to find that during the course of the consultation event, the contributions of those “retired” proved to be invaluable.

Returning home on the train I thought about this a little more. Names like J K Anand, L Sam Lewis and Susanne Stevens, all regular submitters to the BMJ rapid responses came into my mind. All describe themselves as “retired” and one happily calls himself “an old man”. The contributions by retired folk have always struck me as having a different quality to those by people who are still employees of today’s NHS. In “retirement” there may be a greater freedom to ask questions of prevailing approaches. Our older generation also has great experience which should be considered as “evidence” in itself.

Yet in my job as a doctor for older adults, I see the world around me as seeming to do its best to reduce our elders. The language used in discussing our elders commonly denotes some sort of loss. For example the “guru” of Healthcare Improvement Don Berwick talks about the “Silver Tsunami”. Other healthcare leaders talk of “epidemics” and “challenges”, implying that our elders are a burden to younger generations. To address these “challenges” the healthcare improvers, it seems to me, are devising shortcuts. Today these are often termed “tools” and may be part of “toolkits”. I have even heard healthcare improvers discussing the need to “invent” a “tool” for patient centredness. I think our elders, or those “retired”, might consider this to be particularly ridiculous.

So I would like to say three cheers for the “retired” folk (2). To discourse they bring wisdom, to the prevailing methodologies they are more willing to ask critical questions, and when it comes to cutting through to what matters, being true to oneself, our elders are superior to many, if not most, policy makers.

References:
(1) Healthcare Improvement Scotland. Building a comprehensive approach to reviewing the quality of care: http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/governance_and_ass...

(2) Listening to the voices of abused older people: should we classify system abuse? Published 04 June 2015 . BMJ 2015;350:h2697

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 September 2015
Peter J Gordon
Psychiatrist
NHS Lothian
Livingston