Elderly people in the state’s care home have spoken about being stripped of their privacy and freedom by being placed under constant watch, at an age when all they want is to “live in peace”.
“It’s too much. They guard me day and night. They are driving me mad,” one 88-year-old resident said.
“I was told that it’s because a man escaped and they don’t trust anyone. As if I will run away. First of all, my knees hurt and I have no strength to move.
“Where would I go?”
The woman is still mobile but she and the rest of the residents are under close supervision by measures introduced to “step up security” after 83-year-old Charles Fino went missing nearly a month ago.
Fino, who has dementia, was able to walk out of the home unaccompanied at 3am. A week later, there was an apparent attempted suicide at the home.
These events prompted the management at the residence for the elderly to experiment with measures that would avoid a repeat of such incidents.
At first, residents were not allowed to leave wards, a move the nurses’ union called “inhumane”.
Last week, Times of Malta reported that the mental alertness of residents was being assessed to decide if a resident could be allowed to freely leave their ward. Sources within the home, however, said this measure was now on hold.
Meanwhile, residents who are mobile are under constant watch and the measure has irked them and their relatives.
Complaints reach commissioner
Some have taken their complaint to the Commissioner for Older Persons, Godfrey LaFerla.
He confirmed yesterday that he had received “several complaints including one authored by several persons”.
“Obviously, one must take precautions to protect the residents without restricting their liberty. I tried to clarify the situation with the administration and kept the complainants informed,” he said.
This is all extra worry for me and I can’t take it- Resident
LaFerla said he was informed the order had been withdrawn. However, a visit to the home showed some residents are still under strict supervision round the clock.
A supervisor fills in an activity log sectioned into two-hour slots and records whether the resident “tried to leave the ward”, “tried to get up from their chair”, “fell”, or “was aggressive”, among various other entries.
'I'd like to live in peace'
Residents and relatives have also complained to Times of Malta. The daughter of a 90-year-old woman confirmed her mother was under watch because she could use a walker and considered mobile.
“My mum likes the company but it is odd they are investing so much in placing people on constant watch when they could just monitor the doors,” she said.
The daughter of another resident said her mother was feeling stifled and afraid she would be moved to another ward.
“When they had to move her because she got COVID she was miserable. Now we are worried that they will move her following this recent assessment. That could mean the end of her,” the relative said.
Meanwhile, the 88-year-old said that although those tasked with monitoring her were “nice people” she did not like being watched all the time.
Whenever she stood up to go to the bathroom or open her closet, she always found someone behind her.
“This is all extra worry for me and I can’t take it,” she said.
“These are my last few years of life and I would like to live them in peace.”