Reminder: why respecting your elders is good for you

Respect your elders: why it’s actually good for you.

Caring adult grandson with his arm around grandfather

Across the world, there is great value placed on intergenerational respect and the importance of family. Respect for elders is a prominent cornerstone of many cultures, with Greek, Chinese and Australian Aboriginal being a few stand-out examples.

However, in contemporary western culture, where there is increasing value placed on youth, this respect for elders is sometimes lacking. With studies showing that levels of depression and anxiety on the rise in older Australians, it’s time we remind ourselves why it’s important to respect our elders.

It creates a varied social set-up

In our youth-centric culture, the pressure to stay attractive and keep up with contemporary ideas not only adversely affects those in their older years, but also people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

A society that recognises the contributions made by everyone, no matter what their age (and appearance, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background) makes for a varied social set-up. In a culture such as this, we move away from the superficial preoccupations of beauty, money and consumerism, and begin to gravitate towards more constructive ideas that focus on inclusion of the individual, the wellbeing of the community and overall social progressiveness. 

The preserves the invaluable lessons of the past

Some of the most valuable lessons a person will learn come from their elders. Grandparents are carriers of history and culture and, as such, can teach us so much about who we are and from where we have come. Grandparents can do this through their stories, their perspectives on historical events and by passing on culturally specific knowledge about cooking, handicrafts, games, music and so much more.

All this knowledge is a gift that can continue to be handed down from one generation to another, keeping history intact and preserving important cultural traditions that may otherwise be forgotten in this forward-looking and rapidly paced society.

It fills us with a sense of wellbeing

We are all seeking to become happy and fulfilled people, tending to do this by filling our lives with ‘things’. In Buddhist mentality, you can’t find lasting happiness through the attainment of intransient objects. In other words, the happiness brought to you by objects can never last because you only end up wanting more and more of them.

Caring for others, particularly our elders, to whom we owe a great debt of respect for already having lived, is one of the only true ways to become happy. When we show love for a stranger by helping them carry their groceries to the car, we are filled with a sense of wellbeing. This good feeling can be enough to carry us happily through the whole rest of the day. It’s not a coincidence that this feeling of happiness has nothing to do with looking after our self, and everything to do with looking after someone else. Happiness comes from doing good for others instead of ourselves.

In what other ways can we show respect for our elders?



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    26th Apr 2016
    You should tell that to ageist medical practitioners withholding potentially lif-saving treatments from the elderly!

    Refrain from denying treatment to your patient because of a judgement based on discrimination
    (AMA Code of Ethics 2006, 1.1.10)

    A quick perusal of similar experiences and reports on the internet indicates that the culture of disrespect towards elderly people in health services is pervasive not only in Australia but also globally.
    These reports include:
    • Hunter 2012, “Neglect and Abuse in Aged Care”
    • Raghavan 2012, “Ageist’ doctors negligent of elderly?” See details below.
    • The New American 2013, “British Hospital Patients Dying in Droves From Lack of Care”
    • CMF 2012, “Is the NHS really killing 130,000 patients a year with the Liverpool Care Pathway?”
    • Allan 2013, “Elderly patients are being ‘deprived of food and drink so they die quicker and free up bed space’, claim doctors”
    • Australian Publishing Resource Service 2010, “Hospital elderly: malnourished and underfed”
    • Raschella 2012, “Hospital probes claims elderly woman neglected”
    • 2012, “Hunger and thirst blamed for 2000 patient deaths in Queensland public hospitals in 2011-12”
    • 2013, “Health care fraud and abuse”
    • Mackay 2013, “Without Due Care: An Australian Hospital Tragedy”
    • ABC LATELINE 2012, “Public hospitals in Crisis”

    Reviews & Quotes: Dr Karen Hitchcock's Quarterly Essay On Ageism "Dear life" March 2015
    Hitchcock writes from experience: she is a staff doctor in acute and general medicine at a large Melbourne public hospital.

    3. Our doctors don’t want to treat them[the elderly]
    In addition, there is an embedded ideology about the ‘futility’ of treating the elderly and a dominant narrative criticizing ‘excess treatment’ – both of which encourage a rationing of treatment for older people, a cost-benefit analysis of a human life. The end result of this: Doctors who compete not to deal with the elderly as they come into the emergency room and elderly patients who spend their valuable treatment and recovery time apologising to doctors “I don’t want to be a burden”, “I know I’m a nuisance”.

    4. Our healthcare system fails them
    Currently hospitals require all elderly patients to complete a treatment plan outlining their future limitations on treatment. Intended to give patients choice and a ‘dignified death’, for doctors these plans often make it as simple as a check-box to put a patient on the ‘palliate path’. With the cultural weight of feeling like a burden, especially when asked to fill out the form at the hospital itself, elderly patients are at risk of self-depriving themselves of future treatment; with a healthcare system that allows it.

    5. We don’t want to pay for their healthcare
    “The elderly have been, and remain, the last priority in our medical system and the ones we target first with our austerity measures.”
    For the sake of comparison: there is a stronger negative narrative around the cost of elderly care, compared to our willingness to pay for the treatment of increasingly poor, obese, diabetic, sedentary young and middle-ages who will require many drugs, doctors, operations and hospitalisations.

    “Ours is a society in which ageism, often disguised, threatens to turn the elderly into a ‘burden’ – difficult, expensive and homogeneous.”

    We need to shift our focus away from limiting care, to improving care for elderly Australians.

    In the March 2015 issue of the Quarterly Essay, Karen Hitchcock delves into the Australian healthcare system, making explicit something that, as she says, often remains unsaid and yet can be heard quite clearly: “That the elderly are burdensome, bankrupting, non-productive. That old age is not worth living.”

    ‘The elderly, the frail are our society. They are our parents and grandparents, our carers and neighbours, and they are every one of us in the not-too-distant future … They are not a growing cost to be managed or a burden to be shifted or a horror to be hidden away, but people whose needs require us to change …’
    Karen Hitchcock, Dear Life

    Ours is a society in which ageism, often disguised, threatens to turn the elderly into a “burden” – difficult, hopeless, expensive and homogenous. While we rightly seek to curb treatment when it is futile, harmful or against a patient’s wishes, this can sometimes lead to limits on care that suit the system rather than the person. Doctors may declare a situation hopeless when it may not be so.

    ‘A sensitive, rigorous, and moving account that exposes the prevailing ageism in our medical services and in Australian society as a whole.’
    Australian Book Review

    'Bed-blocker' tag smarts of ageism

    hospitals rushed to assume older people were suffering from inevitable age-related deterioration, and rushed to take minimal or palliative measures, instead of treating sometimes easily fixed short-term health issues.

    “I’ve actually heard doctors say to people ‘Have you considered what a burden you are on your family?'” she said. “The pressure on hospitals is so immense, and if you are prejudiced in any way (against older people) that’s going to affect your decision.”

    “There is a stereotype and an attitude that pervades care that an older person does not have a right to a bed there,” Dr Bernoth said.

    A growing recognition of the ageing population and its fiscal ramifications had translated to fear
    “This perception has infiltrated our health systems and has led to a number of movements within medicine that are either consciously or unconsciously informed by our low regard for the elderly and the fiscal fear they now embody.
    “Given our cultural climate, they risk giving sanction to a form of health rationing for our elderly in a system which historically has held them in the lowest regard


    Top doctor's chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year UK Hospitals June 2012

    NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

    Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.
    He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.
    The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.
    Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.
    He added: ‘If we accept the Liverpool Care Pathway we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths.’

    He said this showed that claims they had hours or days left are ‘palpably false’.
    ‘Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP.
    ‘Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition.
    ‘Predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically.
    This determination in the LCP leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The personal views of the physician or other medical team members of perceived quality of life or low likelihood of a good outcome are probably central in putting a patient on the LCP.’
    Medical criticisms of the Liverpool Care Pathway were voiced nearly three years ago.
    Experts including Peter Millard, emeritus professor of geriatrics at the University of London, and Dr Peter Hargreaves, palliative care consultant at St Luke’s cancer centre in Guildford, Surrey, warned of ‘backdoor euthanasia’ and the risk that economic factors were being brought into the treatment of vulnerable patients

    EXAMPLE: Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated.
    In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift.
    Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP.
    ‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said.
    ‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,’ he said.
    In the example of the 71-year-old, Professor Pullicino revealed he had given the patient another 14 months of life by demanding the man be removed from the LCP.

    The sanctioned killing of the aged and ill is all that could follow in the shadow of the legalization of abortion.
    Instead of empowering ourselves by strengthening the worth of all life we have lowered ourselves to the level of every killer.
    It is a power choice pure and simple.
    Anyone that is perceived to be taking ' valuable space ' or ' breathing the air ' of someone more worthy, or ' costing me money ' can be deemed worthless and therefore killable.

    26th Apr 2016

    I survived the death pathway: Patricia, 82, was given two days to live, but her family defied doctors and gave her water through a straw - now she's planning a world cruise

    Doctors at the hospital had removed all feeding tubes and drips and placed the 82-year-old grandmother on the Liverpool Care Pathway. Her children and grandchildren were told to say their last goodbyes.
    But they said no. And after they defied hospital orders and gave Mrs Greenwood drops of water, her family helped her make a remarkable recovery.
    Within hours, Mrs Greenwood was eating and drinking for herself and is now back at home and proud to call herself a Liverpool Care Pathway survivor.
    The hospital concerned has been paid more than £600,000 in the last two years to hit targets for the number of patients who die on the Pathway, according to documents uncovered by the Mail.
    They’re making money out of killing people.’
    The Mail has highlighted growing fears of patients’ relatives and doctors that the Pathway is being applied to patients without their families’ knowledge and when they still have a chance of recovery.
    The regime, which involves the withdrawal of food and fluids as well as medical treatment, is designed to be used on patients who are dying. Doctors try to ease their suffering in their final hours instead of trying to save them. Yet critics say it is impossible to predict accurately when a patient may die and that the Pathway instead becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ that hastens their death.
    ‘The very same people are now saying they are conducting the inquiry. It’s like the fox guarding the henhouse.’
    Julian Brazier, Tory MP for Canterbury, said: ‘There should be an independent inquiry and not one run by the practitioners.’

    The medical profession's lethal arrogance over the Liverpool Care Pathway Melanie Phillips

    Numerous relatives have claimed, however, that their loved ones were put on the Pathway – which involves the withdrawal of food and fluids as well as medical treatment – without their consent.
    Far worse, they claimed that some of these patients were not in fact dying when they were put on the Pathway, but were then starved and dehydrated to death as a result.
    As such claims mounted, the reaction by the medical establishment was to dismiss them out of hand.

    EXAMPLE: One woman, for example, wrote that her father suffered a severe stroke caused by a blood clot in his brain. ‘All fluids were removed from him and we were told he was in the final phase of his life,’ she wrote.
    ‘All we were told was that there was no hope for him; it was a matter of time before he died. Eight days later, he opened his eyes and proved everyone wrong by pulling round. Two years on from this he is back at home, although in a wheelchair and with some loss of speech.’

    EXAMPLE: Another woman’s 85-year-old mother was admitted to hospital with an infected gall bladder. The following day doctors told her, to her shock, that her mother was gravely ill and had no chance of survival.
    The doctors, who included three consultants, told her that if she did not agree to the Pathway she would be adding to her mother’s distress and misery. She signed the form – only to be horrified subsequently to find her mother highly disorientated, agitated and distressed from lack of fluids and treatment.
    ‘I compelled the nursing staff to restore hydration and medications, or take full responsibility for the outcome if they failed to. I also took matters into my own hands by feeding her natural yogurt, soft foods and spooning water into her – something which was to continue until she was released three days later, having been restored to full health, cracking jokes and saying goodbye to those who were unfortunately left probably to suffer the same fate.
    ‘A year has since passed. My mother has a robust appetite and has never succumbed to the “impending doom” I was led to believe she could not escape.’

    EXAMPLE: Another woman’s father was in a nursing home waiting for surgery to amputate his legs following complications from cancer.
    The man’s daughter was called by a nurse who told her that her father was on the Pathway, and who then overrode her objections to that decision. Distraught, the daughter wrote to her father’s surgeon begging him to intervene to save her father’s life – which he did.
    Dad had his amputation and has made a good recovery. I visited him today; he was sitting up asking for sweets. We talked about him coming to us for the Christmas hols. It really could have been a different story. He’s my dad, he is 83 and has a right to choose to live.’

    the second kind of message I received furnished all-too-chilling reinforcement.
    These were from doctors, nurses and other NHS staff. They did not wish to examine any of the evidence. Facts seemed to be totally irrelevant.
    They simply knew for a certainty that all the claims made by relatives – and by Professor Pullicino and his colleagues – were totally untrue, because apparently medical staff like them only ever have their patients’ best interests at heart.
    Many were incandescent with rage that I had publicised concerns that patients who were not dying were being starved and dehydrated to death. Several accused me of deliberately sensationalising the issue in order to sell newspapers, and that to that cynical end I had set out to terrify dying patients and their relatives.
    The concern, however, is that it is often being applied to patients who are not dying – but who then die as a result
    But the angry medical staff simply refused to accept that the LCP was ever being used on patients who were not dying, and as a result was killing them. They dismissed all such claims as odious and with no substance at all.
    Yet how could they know? The answer was as chilling as it was high-handed: only doctors could tell who was dying.
    One doctor wrote: ‘Neither you nor patients’ relatives are trained to recognise dying, and are thus not qualified to comment on the process.’
    But if trust has been eroded, it is because so many people believe that elderly patients are being starved and dehydrated to death.
    A proper ethical response is surely to investigate such concerns, not use emotional blackmail to suppress them.
    What my correspondence has illuminated is the compelling evidence of abuse of the LCP – and the all-too-revealing arrogance of the furious NHS staff who deny it all: confirmation of the disturbing attitudes about which the relatives gave such vivid testimony.
    It is essential that this thick carapace of professional obfuscation is swept aside if the truth is ever to be established about the Liverpool Care Pathway.
    EXCELLENT READER QUOTE: All nurses are angels and all doctors are saints so as you lie in your hospital bed wondering if you will be allowed to live or die nothing can go wrong can it.

    26th Apr 2016
    Ageism only happens to the poor not the rich. From July 1, no more free blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, urine tests and etc.
    26th Apr 2016
    Looks to me like it happens to ALL elderly patients arbitrarily deemed as disposable and burdensome BED BLOCKERS!
    A tragic state of affairs where "return-on investment" rules over saving lives.
    My mum was a victim.
    She didn't want to die, but was immediately put onto "palliative" care for septic shock.
    She died in agony during her final hours because they had apparently withdrawn all pain medication.
    The agony was etched all over her face, even in death.
    I am very angry with those heartless doctors for doing this.
    The medical literature states that the survival rate from septic shock, WITH PROPER TREATMENT, is about 50%.

    26th Apr 2016

    Do older patients suffer age prejudice in hospital?

    Karen Hitchcock is a dedicated doctor and a brilliant writer.
    She believes old people face entrenched age discrimination in hospital.
    She treats the old, sick patients other doctors may write off.
    She gives them a chance to grab more life

    In a provocative new essay, she argues doctors are influenced by a culture that discounts the elderly.
    As a result, they can be too inclined to withhold treatment in the belief it’s futile.

    According to Dr Hitchcock, the problem is the opposite in Australia: “…the problem is not that we never allow patients to die, but that we may declare a situation hopeless when it may not be so.”

    The Australian Reviews The Dr Karen Hitchcock "Dear Life" Essay
    Hitchcock writes from experience: she is a staff doctor in acute and general medicine at a large Melbourne public hospital.

    age discrimination is rife in the medical system (“They have been and remain the last priority ...”), as it is in wider society. You may be surprised to hear, Hitchcock remarks, that when your grandfather presents at a hospital, “Doctors won’t fight to take care of him; they’ll fight not to.’’

    She is not suggesting doctors are uncaring, but a general impatience with the elderly does come through, one that sometimes borders on hostility.

    She recalls the doctor “disgusted by the attempt to pump life back into a damaged and dying old body’’. Wouldn’t it be better if she just slipped away? As Hitchcock incisively comments, this attitude is a “failure of empathy, disguised as empathy’’. Her grandmother wanted to live a bit longer: for her the little life she had was preferable to no life at all. And it’s here that one of the more disturbing aspects of the essay comes to the fore.
    26th Apr 2016
    LUVCO2 clearly has a personal axe to grind which is a shame because it does not allow for recognition that today respect for anyone or anything is sadly lacking. So much so that when any form of respect is demonstrated, it gains front page news status particularly in the local community press.

    Most are only out for themselves these days. Parents model this behaviour to their children everyday then blame the schools, schools are then expected to be surrogate parents on a number of fronts because parents outsource that responsibility. But at the same time parents withhold the parental authority over the child only to reassert that authority in a lawsuit when the teacher 'fails' that child. No wonder there is little respect left anywhere.
    26th Apr 2016
    "axe to grind"????????

    So you discount a DOCTOR's claim that many thousands of elderly are being killed due to life-saving treatment rationing in the UK, or a DOCTOR documenting widespread treatment rationing for the elderly in Australian hospitals?
    viz: INSIDERS are blowing the whistle NOT ME!

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