Seniors’ rights discussed in wake of care home abuse scandal

In July, the paper Mladá fronta Dnes exposed neglect and abuse in a care home for the elderly in Prague. This Tuesday, the minister for human rights Džamila Stehlíková met some of the Czech Republic’s leading gerontologists to discuss the problem and unveil a template for seniors’ rights. Iva Holmerová is the head of the Czech Society of Gerontology, and one of Minister Stehlíková’s leading advisors on the issue. When I met Doctor Holmerová earlier today, she said that the care scandal was only part of a wider picture:

“Not only the care of our seniors is a problem, but also the attitude of our society as a whole: intergenerational relationships, the way we address seniors in care, the way that journalists write about seniors’ issues – because they mainly focus upon abused seniors, or their health insurance or regulated rents. And when you ask politicians here about seniors’ issues and problems, they will just answer ‘yes, our population is ageing, which means that we have to build more care institutes and reform pensions’. And this is the wrong attitude.”

When you compare institutional care for seniors here with that in other EU countries, how does it fare?

“Firstly, I would say that our acute care – our acute medicine for seniors – it’s pretty good. We have modern hospitals, with modern drugs and modern instruments and modern technology, so this is not the problem. But when the patient is cured and discharged back into society, and then these people need care – then there is suddenly a huge problem about what is to be done with them. And as we have both a Health Ministry and a Social Affairs Ministry, not just one ministry for care, then the problem is split between these two institutions, and people with very complex social and health needs just fall between the two.”

There has been a lot of talk this year about pension reform in parliament. Are the pensions currently available to Czech pensioners sufficient, do you think?

“Of course I don’t deny that pensions are a problem, but they are not the only problem our seniors have. It’s not just pensions, it’s not just care. Our seniors need more than that, they need a normal life, a good quality of life, and they need to be accepted by society.”