'This caring work might be only one of the low-paid jobs that the worker is compelled to take on to keep the home and family afloat'
In the UK, up to the 1980s, children and adults with special needs (mental, physical, mental and physical) could be incarcerated in ‘long-stay hospitals’ run by the NHS (National Health Service). Under the care of doctors and nurses, horrendous abuse was widespread.
Here is one example. People who were incontinent could be paired, for their bathroom needs, with a more able inmate. Changing and washing became the unpaid duty of the unfortunate inmate delegated to this unpleasant work. Nurses and orderlies were then relieved of this part of their duties. You might try to imagine what would happen to any inmate who tried to refuse the work. This was in the UK, up to the 1980s, in the NHS under the care of doctors and nurses.
What has changed? There are still tens of thousands of people who, because of age, infirmity, illness or disability, are incontinent and need assistance in the bathroom. The task of changing, wiping bums and washing them might be delegated, just the same, to people who have no choice. Now it is not doctors and nurses setting the scene, but society itself in which some of us can, because of our more fortunate circumstances, relieve ourselves of this unpleasant work.
The people who have no choice in this include those who have to take any available low-paid work because they have rent to pay, food to buy, children to bring up. It comes down to wiping bums or being homeless. There is no more choice here than there was for the inmate in the institution. This caring work might be only one of the low-paid jobs that the worker is compelled to take on to keep the home and family afloat.
Looking at this from the point of view of the people needing personal care, they will perceive how much society values them by the lack of decent pay and the lack of training for the people caring for them (many of whom try to offer a level of care above their pay grade and beyond the time allotted).
And then there are the unfortunate incontinent people whose carers arrive too late or too rarely.
Peter Limbrick, September 2020.
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