By Audley Phillip
I recently read a report where a daughter visited her elderly mother at a nursing home in one of our sister Caribbean countries. She was both alarmed and shocked to find maggots coming out of her mother’s mouth.
As I read the account, I was flattened, floored and angry and the story actually brought tears to my eyes. This is really the sad plight of a number of our elderly family members who we so often leave in the hands of unregistered and unmonitored facilities.
Such facilities have more than doubled over the past three years or so here in Antigua. It also brings to mind the recent action taken by the staff at the Fiennes Institute who for months were protesting the conditions of the facility which houses a number of elderly inmates. They were subsequently moved to a better location within the former Holberton Hospital compound.
With a fairly large and aging population here in Antigua, many working families are forced to seek out alternative care facility for their elderly or aging family members. The stigma that have become associated with and attached the only government run facility over the years is not pretty so most family who can afford it, would seek the assistance of private caregivers.
This demand has necessitated a sudden increase in the number of nursing homes that have sprung up all over the island. The downside to this is that there is no oversight or regulatory body that checks these facilities to ensure that they meet certain minimum standards and are not invariably putting the elderly patients at risk.
I do not know of a nursing home registration act here in Antigua, but I am calling on the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Transformation to move quickly in bringing about some measure of order to this sector so that that these facilities can be registered and monitored. We just can’t afford to leave our elderly families in the care of people who have little or no experience in dealing with the elderly and at facilities that are inadequate, unregistered and unmonitored.
The very same situation exists at daycare and preschools. Their numbers have risen almost ten-fold over the past two to three years and I do not know that they are regulated and monitored in order to ensure that certain minimum requirements exist. Our children are too important to leave them in the care of just anyone and whilst I understand that parents have to work, it is so vital that those caring for our children are knowledgeable, experienced, and qualified to look after our precious little gems.
On the surface of it, I think that the location of some of these preschools/daycare is far from acceptable and there are other attributes that for me would make many of them unacceptable and unsuited for hosting children.
As parents we must ensure that we do not put our elderly and our children at risk by the choices we make for them. If the nursing homes, daycare and preschools are registered and something happens, then at least you have some redress. The current set up do not allow for that.
Once someone is collecting money for a service, then they are running a business and all businesses should be registered, regulated and monitored. Our elderly and our children deserve nothing short of the very best and the sooner we regularize these vital and important sector, the better it is for all concerned.