The British film ‘Tony Robinson: Me And My Mum’ was shown on Australian television this week and airs an issue which is apparently discussed as little in the UK as in Australia. At the time of making the film, Tony had had to put his mum, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, into a nursing home and felt very guilty about it. He talked to other people faced with the same dilemma, some of whom had given up work to care for their parents at home. One pointed out that she got a mere pittance as a carer whereas if she had been looking after a child she would have got far more government assistance.

Another issue raised was what to tell a person with a mental illness. One woman told her father when she put him into a home that he would be going back to his own home when he was better, knowing that this wasn’t true, but she hadn’t the heart to tell him the truth.

A more positive side of the film showed older residents of an apartment style block with a live in manager. The whole atmosphere was far more positive, with residents organising their own entertainment (including a stripper!).

Issues regarding older people and their families, particularly when the older people need to move out of home, need to be publicly debated, and the views of the older people included where appropriate. Older people should have the right to finish their days in dignity and in circumstances which meet their needs. Their families shouldn’t feel guilty if they can’t provide appropriate care as long as they are providing other support. Dementia adds a further difficulty to the equation.

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