Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey has accused some businesses, relatives and other unscrupulous people of taking advantage of and abusing elderly people, and has suggested the Government needs to be more responsive to address these problems.
He cried shame on those individuals and disclosed plans to introduce programmes to keep seniors connected through the Internet, assist them in getting medication, and improve their surroundings, as he contributed to debate on a resolution to grant $2 226 311 from the Consolidated Fund to supplement the 2021/2022 Estimates, including $1 452 000 for design work for the new Geriatric Hospital.
Humphrey gave specific examples of the elderly losing out when cashing cheques at community shops and itinerant salesmen.
“And they charge them ridiculous fees to cash their cheques. So that, recognising that the elderly people are unable to go and get the cash cheques, or that they’re offering a convenience to the elderly, they charge rates that in themselves are abuse. And I will not be silent about it because it is unfairing old people in this country and it has to stop,” he said.
“It troubles me and we have to be vigilant as MPs in looking after the welfare of our elderly population and making sure that these things do not happen. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t charge just a little something, because you gotta pay for it and there’s an admin cost but you can’t kill them. In good conscience, you really shouldn’t charge them at all because I began by saying that the elderly has contributed significantly to this country.”
Minister Humphrey also lamented that there were people who were moving into the homes of elderly people and assert themselves falsely as family or caretaker and use that position “to cause the elderly people grief”.
“That, too, has concerned me, Sir, and that too has to stop. And we’ve seen it time and time again, the abuse that is just being meted out to old people because they’re old,” he said.
Humphrey called on families to do more for their elderly relatives rather than put the responsibility solely on the Government, abandoning them at the hospital.
His predecessor at the helm of the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde, expressed similar sentiments, saying that seniors were getting the “worst deal ever”, as family members abandoned them at the Queen Elizabeth
Hospital and other people robbed them of their money and property.
“Unfortunately, too many of the relatives, and some friends in the community, and some others distinguished in the eyes of themselves – but not me – or a lot of persons in Barbados in different professions who have to work with those senior citizens, are not treating them well. They are being robbed blind, day and night of their properties, whether it be money in the bank, or money or the house, or jewellery, or the properties in which they are living,” Forde said.
“It really is a matter of concern. I know that PAHO [Pan American Health Organisation] has been doing a consultancy, and they have given back reports as to the way forward working towards more legislation to be able for us to protect the elderly, to have them in a safer environment as well as to stop them from being robbed.”
She, like Humphrey, urged families to step up to the plate to take care of their relatives.
“We are having a different kind of family structure, where children now move away from home. That extended family with the uncle and the auntie, and the great grandmother and so on, we see very little of that in our society. And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, but I would prefer for children and grandchildren to move back home or to stay at home with the seniors; too many of them are suffering. I’m talking, having had the exposure and talking of more than 15 requests per day for seniors to be placed in the district hospitals,” she said.
Forde said placing the Geriatric Hospital in the Botanical Gardens was a “boss stroke”.
“The ambiance of those environments and the newness that will take place and the kind of quality care that will continue to be offered, as is the case in our governmental district hospitals and indeed some of our nursing homes across the country, is going to make a tremendous difference in extending the lives of our seniors,” she said.
Meantime, contributing to the debate, Deputy Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw lamented that even in COVID-19 pandemic, the number of senior citizens being left at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is still on the rise.
“It pains me to know that there are elderly people who are often left in those circumstances where the family cannot cope with them and the only place that they, in many cases, feel that they can seek solace is at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which as you know is obviously causing severe strain on already difficult resources there,” she said. (DP)