Standing beside our frail elderly, in the centre of life

This excerpt is part of a wonderful opinion piece from the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Elizabeth Oliver – a GP and advanced trainee in Palliative Medicine

A month before the aged care royal commission released its interim report, two nurses from a low-income country visited our hospital unit on an observership. They found many similarities, but one particular difference fascinated them, something which until now I would not have called a phenomenon.

“You keep talking about ‘falls’. What do you mean by ‘falls?’” They were referring to the ubiquitous reporting systems, policies and posters centred around that classically hip-breaking event that often spells the beginning of the end for an elderly person. In their hospitals, they told us, ‘falls’ aren’t a thing, and certainly aren’t a whole category of catastrophe. We were shocked. In Western medicine we have built entire industries, specialties, even a lingo around falls. Mechanical fall, unwitnessed fall, fall-with-headstrike, and the sadly evocative “fall with long lie”. What kind of uncultivated backwater doesn’t have falls?

It’s harder to fall when family members attend the hospital with the patient and are welcomed and expected by the staff to nurse them. It’s harder to fall when you aren’t alone in the room. Confused aged care residents can fall “wandering” from their spartan single rooms into the corridor where all the talking and laughing is happening. If the talking and laughing is happening where you are, you don’t wander. If you’re cared for in the centre of the action, there is always someone standing by you…

You can read the entire article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 6th here.