Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Elderly

The Hurricane Katrina crisis revealed many shocking revelations about how America treats its elderly and the culture of indifference, abuse and neglect. An overwhelming amount of senior citizens perished during the flood. There were many cases where the elderly were left in the hands of staff at retirement homes and to the mercy of healthcare providers.

St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, left 34 patients to fend for themselves during the flood, and the owners were charged with negligent homicide. Attorney General Foti stated “Thirty four people drowned in a nursing home where they should have been evacuated.”
Rescue workers removed 45 bodies from a downtown New Orleans hospital that was surrounded by floodwaters from Katrina, according to a spokeswoman from the Louisiana Department of Health.

The Houston Chronicle ran an unforgettable photograph of a little girl pushing her grandmother in a wheel chair. No one bothered to protect them from the horrendous conditions of the New Orleans Conventions Center, where dead bodies, often elderly, where left on the streets for weeks, one elderly person was left dead in a wheel chair only covered by a light cloth.

Countless victims were found dead in their homes, alone, not able to escape the dreadful full waters, not able to get to the upper most parts of their homes and cut through the roofs to get rescued.

How can a country proudly proclaiming to be the greatest and riches nation in the world excel economically, yet fail so miserably at protecting one of the most valuable resources, our elderly Mothers, Fathers and grandparents.

Presently, more than 1.5 million people reside in 17,000 nursing homes nation wide. Research reveals that between 50%-60% of people admitted to care homes die within the first 2 years. Mortality rates are highest in the first 6 months but tend to settle thereafter.

There have been many undercover documentaries revealing deplorable conditions and treatment in nursing homes. It is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that 35 percent of the total population will be older than 65 by the year 2020. A recent study by a University of Missouri-Columbia nursing researcher found that a shift in attitude is needed to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.

Muslims frequently look at this issue from the outside looking in, however as society moves away from fundamental values allowing un Islamic practices seep into our Ummah we also changes practices in our own communities towards our elderly.

Our religion has given us a clear guidance in the treatment of our parents

Chapter 17 23:-24 of the Quran “Al Isra (or Night Journey) states:

“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.’” (Quran 17:23-24)

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