Of the many articles I read last year, this one really lingered. It’s an interview with the always provocative, always fiercely practical Colleen Cartwright. Journalist Caroline Egan published it in HelloCare in November last year.
Colleen is a specialist in aged care, advance care planning and the rights of the elderly, as well the Emeritus Professor of Aged Care Services at Southern Cross University.
Caroline quotes Colleen, saying: “For as long as they have capacity, older people must be given choice and control over the food they eat and how they eat it.”
“Meal times also have an important social role. ‘For some residents, the main interaction they have with another person is when they are being fed,’ Professor Cartwright says, suggesting that perhaps this is a role that could be conducted by suitable volunteers.”
But these rights are not just about the right to the primal experience of enjoying good food and the company it connects to.
“Older people also have the “right to… refuse” food and medical treatment if they wish,” says Colleen.
It’s a really interesting take, when we know that as the elderly get even older, they often don’t want to eat. We also know of situations where elderly people have made a decision to eat no more.
A GP pointed out to me recently that nursing homes become very concerned about weight loss in individual patients because this is something which has an impact on their accredition. Of course that’s a good thing.
If monitoring weight loss is done scrupulously in an institution it will avoid a situation where one roast chook is shared between 30 people and called Sunday Dinner. (My sister was shocked to find that in a nursing home back in the 1970s. Mercifully, a long time ago.)
But the elderly do have the right to refuse food….and they do have the right not to go hungry.
To read Caroline’s piece, go to:
We published another story which we were led to by HelloCare. It can be found at: