December 18, 2011

AUSTRALIA: Elderly being dumped by families at hospital

ADELAIDE, South Australia / AdelaideNow / December 18, 2011

By Suellen Hinde, The Sunday Mail (Qld)

ELDERLY people are being left at Queensland hospital emergency departments by relatives during the holiday season in a trend dubbed "granny dumping".

Growing trend in elderly Australians being offloaded at public hospitals
by family over the holdays.
Picture Getty Images
Emergency staff are increasingly worried by the numbers of frail aged patients who arrive at their doorstep at Christmas, reported The Sunday Mail.

Human Rights campaigner and author of the Granny Rescue blog, Vera Randall, said evidence showed there could be more than 100 elderly people being dumped every year across Australia.

"It's a heartbreaking revelation, but granny dumping is a real issue that is happening all around Australia, and which sadly tends to peak around Christmas," Ms Randall said.

She said the group had evidence that elderly people had been "dumped" at Brisbane and Gold Coast hospitals.

"Relatives bring them to emergency and leave them there with dementia symptoms or admit them to hospital with medical symptoms that can't be ignored, such as chest pains," she said.

"If granny has dementia, she can't communicate whether the symptoms are true or not. These family members have reached a point where they are so desperate that they just don't know what else to do, so they end up dumping their granny or grandpa, sneaking off for a break."

Australasian College of Emergency Medicine faculty chairman Dr Richard Paoloni admitted he had seen the trend at Australian hospitals.

"It is not widespread but symptomatic of an overloaded healthcare system," he said.

Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital emergency department medico Dr David Rosengren said there might be isolated cases, but doctors did not see it as a problem.

He said elderly people were more vulnerable when fewer support services were available.

The term "granny dumping" was first coined by medicos in the US in the mid-1990s.

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