2021. május 18., kedd

In the shadows of a sunny fall

The (unregistered) tragic fire in Pančova’s old folks home again brought the problem of the care of elderly into perspective. Because, to tell the truth, nowadays, the future of youth, their job opportunities, options, and the existential problems of the middle-aged are the main topics. We could say that we don’t have time to deal with the problems of old people.

Photo: Gergely József
Photo: Gergely József

Parents and grandparent are mostly important until they can take care of the young. When this ceases, then the care for them does as well. Of course, this isn’t everywhere the case, nor was is always like this. Once, the old were honored and cared of.
Some thirty-forty years ago, one was quite frowned upon if he put his parents in a home. Today, this is natural. And the main reason for this is that the majority of the descendants leaves their home. The parents are literally left on their own. One of my friends told me the other day that his sick wife said that perhaps they should have had eight children instead of four, but maybe even this wouldn’t have resulted in them not being alone now.
In this period of poverty, in the era of low pensions and unemployment of youth, old people can well enough regard themselves lucky if they can spend the last years of their lives in a retirement home. Because, at least there, they are not alone. The problem is that not everyone can cover the expenses of a home. And this brings into perspective the retirement homes on private properties, the number of which has significantly increased over the past few years. Obviously, there’s a lot as there is great need for them. They are somewhat cheaper than the government owned gerontological centers. Cheaper for five thousand. This isn’t that much, but considering the long queu one has to wait to get into a government owned home, not to mention all the paperwork and contacts one has to establish, the outcome of these situations are quite obvious. It seems that everyone gets what they want: the relatives find a quick solution to the “problem,” the care for their helpless parents. But is this good for the old?
The example of Pančova clearly marks out that old people in private homes don’t always feel safe and cared for. In the last three years there were three fires in homes just in Belgrade.
It’s considered that Serbia has around four hundred illegal retirement homes. Most don’t offer full-board to the old. They are over-crowded. As this is a business, it’s obvious that everyone is in it for the profit. Which is mostly more important than being humane. There are a lot of sick in one room, but not enough doctors. There were cases where – in order to avoid fines – people were just moved from one house to another in a matter of days. The old are totally unprotected. Especially those who came to a retirement home on the basis of a contract.
Apart from the illegal retirement homes, the Ministry shows that the country has 121 legal ones. 24 in Vojvodina. According to Minister Aleksandar Vulin, each and everyone of us can check on the website of the Ministry, whether a retirement home is legal or not. Those who choose illegal homes on purpose, are criminals, he says, and should be sent to court. He reminded everyone that the social policy holders closed down 42 illegal homes in the past 9 years, and in the last two years 56 homes were put under lock.
The recent situation, however, shows that government policies are quite late. The registration of homes started three and a half years ago, in May 2013. But until the policies started really doing something, the illegal homes grew a couple of times larger in number than the legal ones.
Out of the 121 licenced establishments, only 11 are under the control of the government, 110 are private owned. It’s clear that the government gave a free hand to private businesses, but the problem is that it’s unable to control them. The work of inspectors should be boosted first and foremost. It also wouldn’t hurt to increase the number of government owned homes, as well as make them more available to those with a small income.
In general, the government should take more care of the elderly. The reigning power shouldn’t only summon them before elections. And when the ambulance is called out, the question shouldn’t be, “And how old is he?”
First and foremost, the income of families should be stabilized. After that, everyone can decide how they want to take care of their old. Penalties and fines have given no results so far. Not even where they should have, not to mention where not.