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Older people need EU code of conduct to safeguard care and prevent abuse, says Liz Lynne

September 8, 2010 10:16 AM

Liz Lynne MEP, first Vice President of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee and Lib Dem spokesperson on European Employment and Social Affairs, yesterday spoke on her question and resolution on long term care for older people in the EU Parliament during UK Elder Care Week.

Speaking in the debate at the Parliament in Strasbourg last night, Liz Lynne said:

"The reason for putting this oral question and resolution on the agenda is to try and achieve an EU wide code of conduct on long term care for older people. We are not talking about legislation but an exchange of best practice between Member States.

"For too long the treatment of older people has been inadequate in many respects. We need to know first and foremost what data the European Commission already has on the provision of care in Member States and whether the Commission see itself playing a role in the dissemination of best practice.

"A key area I have been concerned about for a number of years is elder abuse; it can take many forms, physical, mental, emotional and financial. Take the case of a 93 year old woman who went into a care home for respite care for a week, only for her to return home completely dehydrated. Obviously no attempt had been made to help her drink at all; this is not an isolated case.

"There are many cases of malnutrition and dehydration, but it would be useful if we could have facts and figures. Has the Commission got any data on the number of deaths attributable to dehydration and malnutrition?

"Just as worrying of course is the more frequent use of 'do not resuscitate' orders; it should be up to the medical practitioner in consultation with the patient to decide on whether a DNR should be on someone's notes.

"I know of cases where either the nursing home itself decides which person is resuscitated or the relatives are told they must sign up to it which is a complete abuse of the person's right to choose.

"What is the Commission doing to look at the use of so called 'do not resuscitate' orders and does the Commissioner agree that it violates the right to life under Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights?

"I am pleased the World Health Organisation has adopted a broad definition of Elder Abuse. We need now at EU level to clarify the extent of abuse and I hope the Commission will bring forward a Green Paper on Elder Abuse.

"Over prescription of medication, particularly anti psychotic drugs is also an abuse. Quite often they are used for the benefit of the staff not the resident in a care home. Also, conversely, older people are often denied medical treatment on the grounds of age alone.

"This is another reason why I believe pressure should be put on the Council of Ministers for a decision on the Equal Treatment Directive to outlaw discrimination in access to goods and services which would include healthcare.

"More must be done as well by each Member State to make sure that older people can be supported in their own home if they so wish and for Member States to regulate qualification requirements for people caring for older people with adequate training mechanisms put in place . Many Member States have cut back on specialist geriatric medicine and we need to know what the real effects have been on older people.

"We must not forget either the support and recognition that informal carers need. Quite often they are the ones who care for their relatives' day in, day out with little help.

"The whole area of long term care for older people has been ignored for many years. I hope with this oral question and resolution that we can all of us together start to really give this matter the attention that it deserves.

"Quite often once an older person requires long term care they find it increasingly difficult to speak up for themselves. It is up us all working with them to make sure their voices are heard and not forgotten."


Notes to Editors

Elder Care Week runs from 6th - 12th September in the UK and is supported by a number of UK charities.

A long time campaigner for the rights of older people and for more to be done to tackle elder abuse and age discrimination, Liz worked on this oral question and resolution with AGE UK.

Please find the text of the oral question and the resolution here: