Earlier this week, I read Sue Perkins’ comments in Huffpost about her experiment of living in total isolation as part of Age UK’s campaign concerning loneliness in the elderly. The purpose of this experiment was to raise awareness of the very real problem we face in this country, regarding our elderly citizens living alone, with little to no real communication with the outside world.
Having acted for a number of elderly claimants in clinical negligence cases, her article resonated with me and I often consider the elderly a forgotten generation. It is perhaps a lack of awareness of the needs of the elderly or simply a resource issue but, in my experience, elderly patients regularly do not receive the standard of care that they truly require within the NHS and in general practice.
As clinical negligence lawyers, we often claim for a “buddy” as part of the compensation award in clinical negligence claims for elderly clients. These claims can cover many issues such as failures to diagnose or appropriately treat orthopaedic injuries as a result of falls or blindness following a delayed diagnosis of temporal/giant cell arteritis. Our care experts often recommend that our clients are supported by “buddies” who are individuals that can provide assistance, not just on a practical level but on a social level too. They assist our client with transitioning back to everyday life after sustaining injuries caused by clinical negligence.
The older we get, the greater our dependency on all of our remaining faculties. If we are stripped of some of those in later life, in my view, the impact can sometimes be far greater than if those injuries occurred at an earlier time in life and at a time when we had the resources and the capacity to adapt. Indeed, experts in geriatric medicine often advise that injuries caused to the elderly can accelerate the ageing process, resulting in a bleaker long term picture than would otherwise be the case with a younger patient.
Sue Perkins' experiment has exposed some of the problems that we face with an ageing population and with household names publicising this very real issue, I hope changes will be made to benefit and protect our elderly population. After all, they are now, what we will become with the passage of time.