Exit or desperately needed social reforms


I live right behind a home for the elderly. From my kitchen window, I have a view of the back courtyard and service entrance. All day you can observe the employees of the kitchen and laundry staff enter and exit during the 24 hour shifts. Up until recently a battalion of construction workers, their supplies and machinery were renovating this wing of the facility. 

The main entrance is just around the corner. A sweeping drive way, with a vast parking lot for visitors(it NEVER gets full). Out-door types and smokers with or without mobility supports, converge under the awning in all weather. The entrance is their window to the world. But I suppose that for all those who enter this place, the reality is that the only way out of there is perhaps a walk around the block,  a visit over the holidays with their family but ultimately only death.

Over the course of the past year, this exodus was noted on several occasions. The hearse parking in the back courtyard and the somber undertakers rolling the coffin out from the back entrance, alone and unaccompanied. What is interesting though, is that families of the Muslim faith show up in unison to receive their loved one and escort him or her. Then the back entrance is quiet again. Even if you don’t actually witness this, a person’s passing is always followed by a collection of pieces of furniture that are carried out the backdoor and placed into the courtyard. The favorite easy chairs, side tables, cupboards and lamps are discarded and await being shredded into bits by the special garbage truck. Sometimes this furniture stands in the rain for days , solemn reminders of their owners.

The first time I found an older lady lost and completely scared in the neighborhood, I was shocked( I was not able to gather enough information from this poor old woman, there are several homes in the area, so I decided to start with the one next to my house). Walking into the reception area of the establishment unquestioned or stopped. No sight of any staff! There were several elderly sitting in the lounge, but neither my charge nor the people recognized each other. I got the lady some water and told her I would go to find someone in charge. I spent the next 15 minutes walking the maze of corridors in all directions, without finding anyone resembling a member of the staff!! Passing the open doors of the rooms, the faces of the bedridden elderly, so so many of them. Finally, I found some sort of dining room where some residents were having coffee with their visiting family members and a service employee. She went off to find someone and I returned to the entrance area. Twenty minutes after we entered the building someone in uniform appeared. She did not know the lady either, but checked her name on the computer and lead her away, after thanking me for my help.

As I stepped out into the drizzle, my heart was heavy. What it must be like to live there…

The facts are simple: 

1. Demographically seen the need for nursing homes is increasing at a never before seen speed. Life expectancy has been steadily   rising.

2. The cost of securing a place is staggering and depends on the health of the elderly, but a progression from stage 1-assisted living-to stage 3-complete care *-is certain and forgone only by death. *not noted are stages 4 through 6

3. An acute shortage in nursing staff(statistically seen, during one shift a member of the staff takes care of between 20 and 28       elderly)!

4. Poor salaries and dumping wages for temporary staff

5. Extended shifts, poor working conditions, poor prospects, lack of prestige and recognition

6.  Lacking funds

To name just a few.

With the birthrate in Germany at 1,36 – things are likely not going to improve. More and more women are conscientiously deciding against having children. It is easy to understand,  that the financial aspects and repercussions are not to be taken lightly. On the one hand the German Government does “reimburse” or “motivate” women for having children by offering Kindergeld or child allowance, but that that in the long course of child raising, does not cover the costs incurred. But on the other hand the supposed Social State does not offer free schooling. Starting from kindergarden, the parents are required to pay. For the working mothers (they will have to work for their future pensions) there is always the conflict of finding adequate and after hour care. Many women are forced to pay extra to schools for supervision until they are able to collect their children after they finish work. The cost per hour stands in no relationship to the hourly wages most women receive. 

Of course there are plans and reforms in progress which are supposed to alleviate some of the problems.  Offering a mother or father one hundred Euros a month to keep their child home, instead of sending it into day care. Providing some extra points for children on the pension fund, which amount to so little when it comes to actual numbers – isn’t going to sway a woman to have a child.

Governments and politicians are closing their eyes to the fact, that the fewer children are born, the fewer future tax- and pension/healthcare payers will be available – who will on the one hand, supply the funds necessary to keep the system going and on the other hand who will supply the manpower to look after the rest of us.

That Europe and Germany already has a problem with their aging society is an undeniable fact. How we care for them and treat them is a reflection of our society. But without children there is no chance of a future.

For those of you who like statistics, this is staggering:




4 thoughts on “Exit or desperately needed social reforms

  1. I find it so very interesting that you blame the fact that not enough children are being born or not having better childcare available is the reason why there is a problem with elderly care. From what you wrote about the home for the elderly, it sounds like there is poor management going on. The reason for the empty parking lot could be the children of the elderly are working long hours just to pay for the bills to keep their elderly parents in the home, are too busy caring for their own children to care for their parents, the elderly person outlived their children, their children don’t want to have anything to do with their parents (bad parenting, etc), or you missed seeing people visit. It is interesting that you added the link at the end of your article which shows there are 7 billion people in this world and over 200,000 children being born today alone and the day isn’t over yet. Women not having children or enough children is not the problem, having TOO MANY children, having a poor social system in place, and poor education is the problem! I don’t have children and I am very happy with my decision. I save tons of money by not having children which will one day for my future care homes. We don’t need to try to encourage people to have children, enough people are having children as it is.

    • Dear Manyprettyroses,
      Thank you for your comment.
      You are right of course in adding the explanations for the empty parking lot and citing poor management for this particular home as a probable cause.
      But what can not be denied is the fact, that governments all over in times of financial crisis begin to cut funding in health and education first. The young and the old are the first to suffer those consequences.
      The 1.36 birthrate in Germany does not take into consideration that our globalized society in the census makes no difference between origin or social status. It is a calculated average of all females in the country. Maybe I should have provided some other numbers, but it seemed too “racist” to me. And I did not want to elevate that aspect, it is not how I feel.
      I agree with you that the problem is not “not having children” and that there are TOO MANY children in the world. China just modified its One-Child-Policy, which scares me even more than the consequences of the One-child-Policy.
      I am not encouraging women to have more children who will not have adequate health and social benefits. I think that our governments need to adjust the system to the extent that those children that are born and that our elders benefit in equal measure.
      Above all, I think women should be encouraged to make conscientious decisions about what they want for themselves. Children should not be seen as “fashion accessories” or for financial gain. Having children isn’t a “job” for the half hearted.
      Not having children should be respected equally.

  2. Very strong post! I guess it is the future for many of us, if we are (un) lucky to live that long. And it is in Germany? In Greece it is even worse. I guess getting back to the social structures of the mid 20th century would be a solution, (the elder parents living with their kids) but the snag is that everything else has changed. If in a couple both have jobs, they have very little time to take care of their parents, or even see their children. And it is not because they spend their time on vacation or TV, or even because they can afford to send their parents at an elderly house. They are just deprived of time and money by the new laws the treacherous governments have passed over the years. And the life expectancy in Greece has already plummeted. It used to be 73 for men and 76 for women. Now they tend to be around 67-70 and they are bound to fall further. Of course using old statistics or interpreting them in an other fashion help them raise the pension limit up to 67! This means that lots of people from the next generation won’t live as long as their parents! People will work and pay and never receive anything in return (health care is rapidly privatized in Greece. The horror of the old age, is probably this middle ground, where a generation with different aspects of the world and ways to enjoy themselves are living in a heartless society (the big difference is exactly this-not technological). The next generation will not face such problems. But the modern diseases are ruthless as well. Cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson, etc, have always been here, but never in such extend! As for children, I wonder if we should even discuss about them in financial terms. (See how perplexed this guy is with China situation : http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/11222013-china-one-child-change/) I mean that if the world population is growing but the European population is shrinking, it means something. And I won’t even speak for the Asian population or the American one. Birth control or not birth control, everything could and would work if there were no inequalities in our society. But every little thing wherever it may happen, is affecting everyone in the world. Greece is losing population faster than ever. Apart from the people that leave Greece for a future (the possibility of a future, not a better one) 2011-2012 was the second year since WWII that deaths were more than births. If we have to change the way we live, we must do it but the state has to be less hostile. I guess these old politicians think that they have sold their problem of old age.

  3. Thank you Vassili for your comment.
    The picture I described is Germany. I am well aware of the situation in Greece. I lived in Athens from 1978 till 2012. You can say, that up until last year, I knew nothing about my “own country” other than what I read or saw in the news.
    You are right of course when you say, that things are worse in Greece. Even if in the last 20 years things have changed in the Greek family unit- these ties are very different from the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, the Greek Social System is one of the most corrupt, mismanaged and malfunctioning in the entire EU.
    All over the western world men and women, fathers and mothers are forced to work longer hours, spend more time on the road to and from their jobs and more years, that make it difficult to give adequate time to not only their kids but also to their own parents. To me it seems as if most of the social reforms of the 70ies and 80ies have been reversed and replaced by family unfriendly ones. More and more emphasis is placed on integration- accommodating migrants, which of course is admirable and just. In these times of globalization we need to make sure that the newcomers are well taken care of and that they have an integral part of this changing society. But maybe this is part of a plan, without wanting to raise a conspiracy theory, there is a possibility that the aging original society is being replaced and only a form of “ethnic elite” will remain to govern. Already governments, and politicians, along side with the wealthy 1% are an exclusive group, which of course is nothing new in human history, their survival is not threatened as long as the masses remain submissive and compliant.

    Yes, there are many social programs and many kinds of aid. But there are even better laws, reforms and benefits for big business. Not just here in Germany, governments favor the industries, whatever they may be. This institution that is supposed to represent the majority, is guarded, guided and exploited by the few. The majority supplies the workforce for economic growth, consumes and keeps the wheels turning, but when you disregard the future generations and ignore those on whose sweat the benefits were reaped, then the functionality of the system is already going in the wrong direction.
    We all need to rethink…

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