Saturday, June 29, 2019

Clive Bibby: Care of the elderly - we have much more to do

Watching the parliamentary debate on the "End of life" bill during its second reading stages was an experience that l would recommend to anyone who genuinely wanted to form a reasoned opinion on the issue.

There is no question that, in these circumstances when MPs are not bound by party loyalties and are free to speak frankly from the heart, we see the institution of Parliament and those who represent us operating in a manner that makes us proud to be "kiwis".

Sadly, there appear to be few other branches of Government that rewards us in similar fashion for the massive amounts of taxpayers dollars spent keeping our version of democracy afloat.

Sometimes, l wonder if we should just get rid of the "party" system and allow a "free vote" on everything.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely even if it would probably result in a more consensus method of legislating in our best interests and as a result produce better law.

Getting back to the "End of life" debate.

My viewing happened to coincide with contributions from a cross section of MPs from different ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions.

I was impressed by the sincerity of everyone who spoke but, more importantly, the fact that, before arriving at their own decision regarding voting preference, they had all made a determined effort to canvas the views of those who could offer opinions based on experiences working in the field of aged care.

Almost without exception, the MPs spoke of a system supposedly designed to provide better than adequate care for our senior citizens yet was in fact nowhere near capable of reaching the standard we should expect from such an important institution.

Generally speaking, it would appear that their investigations have uncovered endemic cases of mistreatment of those who have little ability helping themselves eke out their remaining days on this earth in comfort. 

Most of the evidence seems to be related to our indifference towards these previously important members of our communities.

In many cases we feel we have satisfied our responsibilities to these folk if we can find a place that will keep them out of sight and by extension, out of mind.

I know that is not the way most people reading this column would view their treatment of elderly folk but l think we would all agree that there is much more we could do to ensure they remain valued members of society until they draw their last breath.

l am the first to admit that it isn't easy dealing with "rogue steers" who make a habit of trying to burn the place down any chance they get and am mindful of similar characteristics becoming more evident in my own reaction to the approaching twilight years.

However, more often than not the solutions to this problem are staring us in the face either by making better use of the vote "aged care" when planning affordable retirement facilities that cater for senior citizens or by using those we have in a more efficient manner.

We don't have to resort to an involuntary use of the "final solution" in order to accommodate those who have earned the right to stay a little longer because that is what those who have responsibilities in this field tell us would be the result of a misuse of this legislation. 

Passing this bill makes that a very real possibility.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.

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