Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Are they mad?

A fascinating article in the SMH today on a new government policy - if you are living in squalor, the government will pay for someone else to clean your house.

After I fell off my chair and picked myself up off the ground, I read further into the article. My first thought was that if you are living in squalor, then it is your responsibility to clean up after yourself.

The number of elderly people who live in severe squalor - among rotting piles of garbage, scurrying rodents, sodden bedclothes and sometimes a menagerie of animals - appears to be on the rise, presenting local councils, welfare workers and neighbours with financial and ethical dilemmas.

Dilemma? I consider myself a libertarian in many ways, but if someone is living like this, then they are beyond looking after themselves. This is what old people's homes are for (assuming the person is old). You get a court order, and you put them in a home. You don't perpetuate the situation by cleaning up their dump, then leaving them there to turn it into a dump again. It's just a drain on the taxpayer.

The managing director of Catholic Healthcare, Chris Rigby, said the average cost of a squalor clean-up was $3000, and in the most extreme cases could amount to $60,000.
If the old person owns the property that is being cleaned, and they have no money to pay for the cleanup, then when the person dies and their property is sold, I hope the agency that did the cleanup comes back and demands that the bill be paid from the proceeds of selling the property. I'd hate to think that the useless kids, who did nothing to help their elderly parents, profit from the sale of the property and profit even more from you and I paying to have it cleaned!

A study by John Snowdon, professor of old age psychiatry at the University of Sydney, showed at least one in 1000 elderly people lived in appalling filth, amounting to about 500 in the state at any one time. "In addition there are at least 500 younger people," Professor Snowdon said.
If we have 500 living in this state at any one time, then we need 500 more places in nursing homes or whatever that can cater for these people.

Most of the elderly people had dementia, alcoholic brain damage or intellectual disabilities, or simply could no longer physically cope with maintaining a house. Many of the younger ones had schizophrenia or drug and alcohol addictions. "And there are some with personalities that cause them to acquire lots and lots of useless possessions, hoarding everything from lawn mowers to pizza cartons."
If you thought I was being harsh when I said they should be taken away to the elderly version of the funny farm, I hope the above paragraph disabuses you of that thought. Many of these people are unable to cope, physically or mentally, with cleaning up their homes. Elderly people are not going to grow the muscles required to thoroughly clean a house once a week. Their muscles will waste more as they age, making it more difficult for them to do it next year than it is this year. Those with alcoholic brain damage or dementia are unlikely to grow a new set of brain cells, and suddenly be able to do all the things that you and I do each week - scrub the toilet, do the dishes, mop the floors, vaccuum the house, take out the garbage etc etc etc. Face it - they are beyond looking after themselves.

Susan Graham, senior co-ordinator of the Severe Domestic Squalor Project, said the work involved enormous patience to win people's trust.
"Enormous patience" equals spending a lot of time with them, and that means paying someone to sit around with them for days. If you are talking about a social service, then it means the taxpayer is paying for a social worker to sit there and gain their trust. It would be so much cheaper and easier to say "bugger the trust" and pack them off to a funny farm.

"I have to assess whether the situation is retrievable; some people are living in premises that are falling down around their ears, that are serious fire risks, or infested with birds and vermin. There's no hot water and the floorboards are falling through."
So cleaning them up is just the start. Now we also have to pay for renovations. Like I said before, assuming these people own the property in question, the taxpayer should be first in line for a payout when the property is sold.

My mind boggles at things like this. It boggles even more at the people in the government agencies who come up with these policies. To me, this sounds like a bad case of taking the softest option possible, because no one wants to play the part of the nasty Nurse Ratched.

Harden up, people.

1 comment:

Claire said...

I take your point about personal responsibility, but a lot of elderly people can't afford to go into aged care.

And to be honest, the squalor that these people are left in, in some old aged homes, - people left to sit in their own excrement, people left in hallways, unhygenic, understaffed care homes. (I've seen this with my own eyes).
In their current state - there'd be less risk of their health and welfare if they were left in their current grotty conditions.

Only the best private old age homes provide a proper service that caters not just to their physical but mental and emotional wellbeing. (The theory being that true rehabilitation leads to people being better able to care for themselves anyway.

If anything the government should be helping to improve the standard of public aged care facilities. As much as their intent is good in this new proposal, it's money down the drain. They should be making it affordable for the elderly to have other options at their disposal.