Nursing home nightmares

Nursing home nightmares

“By 2050, 800,000 people [in Greece] will be over the age of 65. We currently have around 350,000 people over 85. In 2050 this age group will include about 150,000 to 200,000 more people. At the same time, we will have a significant percentage of the population without close relatives who could support them,” Vyronas Kotzamanis, professor of demography at the University of Thessaly, told Kathimerini this week.

We know we are aging as a country, and a big question is how the state will be organized to withstand the increase in the number of senior citizens, to cope with their care but also to inspect facilities that offer care to the elderly, protecting them and those who are living with dementia-related illness from those who only see them as an opportunity for profit. Yes, such predatory behavior does exist in nursing homes.

In the same Kathimerini article that quoted Kotzamanis, Stelios Prosalikas, president of the Panhellenic Union of Elderly Care Facilities, estimated that up to 50 nursing homes must be operating illegally in Attica alone. “You can imagine what the living conditions must be in there,” he said.

We know we are aging as a country, and a big question is how the state will be organized to withstand the increase in the number of senior citizens

It’s a shocking statement. Especially when you consider that even in cases of licensed units, the state inspections – when and however they were conducted – were not enough to prevent horrible living conditions and criminal practices.

The case of the nursing home in Hania, Crete, is one of the most glaring, where the authorities’ investigation has revealed 293 deaths over a period of six years, from January 2015 to March 2021, with 68 occurring within 12 months. Then there is the very recent case of the nursing home in Korydallos, western Athens, where acts of incredible inhumanity and brutality were described to the investigative authorities. Are these two cases the tip of the iceberg? Who will answer this question? Should we rely on our imagination?

I don’t know how to put into words the pain of a fellow human being who, growing old, loses their dignity and self, and I cannot ignore the relatives’ mental burden or guilt at no longer being able to take care of them and being forced to put them into care facilities.

The state must find solutions to these intractable problems. That’s where we need it most: to conduct constant inspections, to record systematically, and to punish immediately.

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