Monday, 8 December 2014

Child Care vs. Adult Care

Babies are so, so cute with their big, big eyes, lovely milky smell and all the excitement that they muster at the slightest stimulus.  This is not Louis but a pink one whose picture I found in Microsoft Clipart. No-one would deny that they're a lot of work though and need to be looked after really well to ensure that they thrive and are safe. Government guidelines which are really strict mean that in a nursery staffing ratios have to be one carer for every three children under two rising to one carer for every four kids up to the age of three.  I'd say that those people have got their work cut out at even these levels. As a parent of an only child I think that being able to look after more than one single handed is an urban myth.  I reckon that it's a closely guarded secret that families with multiple siblings have fairies or some other magical beings helping out!

But old people with advanced dementia who need looking after?  Now they're a different kettle of fish and it seems rarely regarded as appealing in any way shape or form.  They are seen as wrinkly, incontinent, dribbly, cry babies and a damn nuisance.  And they often spill food down their clothes if they try to feed themselves.  If they're still mobile, a constant eye needs to be kept on them to ensure that they don't hurt themselves.  And sometimes, like children, they hit out when they don't understand what's going on.  Because they're bigger and often stronger they can cause way more damage.

Now normally I don't do comparisons of people with dementia and kids.  It's wrong on all sorts of different levels, for example denying them of  respect for what they've done in life and ignoring that often, even people with significant cognitive difficulties have strengths in some areas of their lives that are way more advanced than those of any child or baby.  But in terms of care, their needs seem similar.  After all don't they need changing, feeding, mopping up, their skin checking so they don't get sore, comforting when they're distressed, distracting with interesting things to look at, hear and do and steering away from trouble.  Many don't understand the need for this as they see themselves as fully functioning adults who don't need help. That makes the job all the more difficult.  So my question today is why is it that older people are deemed to need way less staff looking after them,  just one in under one in ten in those big swanky care facilities?  Is it that they do not way less supervision or does it reflect the value that we placed on our elders?  I think I know the answer but I'll hold back and just be rhetorical here.  


  1. Children can be seen as cute and having lots of potential for being 'useful' in later life...whereas society often labels elderly people (with or without dementia) as no longer valuable as taxpayers and a drain on resources. We looked after my Nan at home when she had dementia (thankfully she was not one of the most severe sufferers)...but it was a full time job and very worthwhile. It can't help that families are now often much more fragmented; if you and you relatives have pursued you own agenda for years, with little meaningful contact, it's sadly unsurprising that many are unwilling to turn their lives upside down to care for elderly family members. thank God that you and your colleagues still see them as people, with value.

    1. And thank God that there are relatives and friends who value them too. Sadly there are those who do not seem to. x

  2. I think the other thing is that you see children progress whereas with adults because they're regressing it's much harder for people to deal with. My MIL had dementia and it was very sad to see her deterioriate over time. Eventually she ended up being well cared for on a designated ward within a carehome. Arilx