Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Ill health is not an inevitable consequence of growing older

20 November, 2007

Newry and Armagh MLA Mickey Brady speaking at an Assembly debate prompted by the treatment of 76-year-old Michael Hanratty who, after a farming accident which resulted in a head injury, was deemed 'too old' by the Department of Health to receive specialist brain injury treatment, has said that the Department of Health's policy was that if you were over 65 with this sort of injury, you basically didn't get treated.

The MLA told the Assembly that the perception of older people as frail, dependent, and isolated 'may be a self-fulfilling prophecy'.

Mr Brady said:

"Ageism pervades our healthcare system and prevents older people from receiving optimal healthcare. This in turn leads to their increased dependence on family and public resources, increased disability and mortality, and depression and isolation.

"This is completely unacceptable. I like many believe that the saying an ounce of prevention remains worth a pound of cure needs to be applied to our Health service.

"There seems to be an assumption that pervades our society and Health Service in particular, that serious medical conditions are simply an inevitable part of getting older. The truth is, they are not. Known preventive treatments would go a long way in keeping older patients healthy and enhancing their quality of life. Yet the treatment of Mr Hanratty and many others like him show that they often do not receive them.

"Once an elderly patient encounters a health problem, studies show that physicians often use the person's age, not his or her functional status, as a factor in determining the appropriate treatment. Clearly the ageist bias has infiltrated our Health Service and affected treatment decisions inappropriately. But can't older patients speak up and demand better treatment?

"Unfortunately, they too have fallen prey to the mistaken notion that their ill health is just a part of aging, and I commend the Hanratty family for standing firm and highlighting the plight of their father., which in turn has rekindled the whole debate on Ageism. I urge the Health Minister to take a lead role in ensuring that the issue of Ageism is tackled within the Health Service. More education is necessary across the board if Departments are going to provide their older patients with the proper care and older patients are going to take charge of their own health.

"People over 65 do not have to resign themselves to living their remaining years with a declining quality of life. Proper knowledge can extend lives and make them happier and healthier as well." ENDS

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