5 years ago, almost to the day, an 83 year old woman passed away in a Melbourne home containing her son and daughter in-law as well as her grandchildren.
As idealistic as this may seem initially, make no mistake about it, this was more like a nightmare.
The woman, who can not be named, was taken from a nursing home where she lived an independent lifestyle and received regular medical attention, and was placed into the home and supposed care of her son and his wife.
What occurred over the following 16 months was nothing short of horrendous, but both sadly and predictably, not much will probably be done about it.
The woman entered the family home on May 31, 2012, which consisted of her grandchildren, her son, and a daughter in-law who happened to masquerade as her approved carer.
And it was at this point, that her life drastically began to change.
Doctors visits went from frequent to virtually non existent, prescribed medicine was no longer given, and the happiness of a safe and caring environment was replaced with neglect and squalor.
The woman who suffered from epilepsy, partial paralysis and both hearing and eyesight problems, spent the majority of her ordeal receiving no medical attention.
Sadly, her continual pleas for help fell on deaf ears, as her son went out and purchased ear plugs from Bunnings in order to block out her calls of distress.
Throughout this period her body became riddled with bruising and she grew accustomed to the indignity of spending her days dealing with bed sores and wearing soiled nappies.
And then, after spending a week unable to speak or even swallow, the woman who was found alone in a soiled bed, finally passed away due to bronchial pneumonia.
Today, 5 years after this woman’s untimely death, the son who was the primary decision maker in the home, was sentenced to a measly 18 months jail for his role in the negligent death of his own mother.
He was taken away to his cells crying, moaning and displaying all of the self absorbed and cowardly traits that lead to his own mothers demise.
And as usual, the inadequate sentencing continues to fortify the narrative that an elderly life is less valuable than anyone else’s.
While the abhorrent behavior that ensured this woman’s death was a result of individual neglect, the fact that people like this can be entrusted with the well-being of another human being wreaks of system failure.
The son of the deceased receives a disability pension and is actually being cared for by his own son. And the daughter in-law of the deceased had mental health problems and low intellectual function.
And while this couple had their own children taken from them due to negligence on numerous occasions, somehow they managed to receive carer payments from the government for the welfare that they heinously failed to provide.
How a couple who had their own children taken away, were entrusted with the well-being of a person with complex medical issues is astounding, and it also speaks volumes about the level of value placed on the lives of the elderly in Australia.
The couple in question could not be named publicly because of a suppression order imposed to protect their children. And while this is obviously understandable, it is also sadly ironic.
Children’s safety is held in high regard in Australia, and rightly so. But the value of a child’s life is deemed as higher priority within our society due to the level of vulnerability and need for our care.
This weight of importance ensures that children are protected by thorough background checks and the screening of individuals who have children in their immediate care.
The court system clearly reflects these notions given the tougher sentencing involved with crimes that are perpetrated against children.
Unfortunately though, the welfare of the elderly in Australia is not currently held in such high regard.
While the elderly are obviously adults, their vulnerabilities and care requirements are often seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity.
And in most cases the role of carer falls to whoever is available, rather than who is right for the task.
Literally anyone can assume the role of family carer for an elderly person, and with some light administrative work you can begin to receive carer payments from the government.
In most cases this money is vital for families currently caring for a loved one, but it also echoes the sentiments of a government who are currently trying to pay for their guilt in regards to the aged care sector.
Handing out minuscule amounts of money to anyone willing to help regardless of their ability to care, is far less expensive than putting a system in place to ensure that carers meet a high standard.
And while it it’s obviously better than nothing, surely this should not be the standard treatment of Australia’s senior citizens in 2018.
The elderly people of Australia deserve a society that holds the value of their lives in the same high regard that it has for children and those of a middle age.
And it’s time that government policy and court sentencing started to reflect it.