Contributor: Dr Julia Tua
Origin/affiliation: Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, Malta, General Secretary of the Geriatric Medicine Society of Malta
A few months ago, as a geriatrics trainee in Malta, I met a lady who had fallen and sustained a hip fracture. She was previously a high functioning person, but after a limited rehabilitation period (due to displaced metalwork), she found herself staring inside the walls of a nursing home. She asked me in despair if she could be of any help, but I was at a loss.
In 1976, the United Nations declared "the right to work in just and favorable conditions" a fundamental human right. However, it is now 2020, and for the foreseeable future, this right is unquestionably denied to most of our nursing home population. This is mostly under the auspices of 'care', and generally due to lack of accessibility and resources.
Society deems residents in nursing homes to have lost their usefulness and are now only an economic burden. Nursing home carers sometimes offer small tasks and light activities but residents are rarely given meaningful responsibilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in remote employment, potentially giving persons with limited mobility a more level playing field. May this be the dawn of remote working of elderly persons in nursing homes? I believe that given the opportunity and proper assistance, older persons in nursing homes can play a greater role in society than they are currently offered, but to do so will require a widespread change in attitude.
Will there be a time when nursing home applications will go hand in hand with the option of assisted work applications ? Will there be a time when we can provide the opportunity to all members of society the fundamental right to work in just and favorable conditions ?