Changing Billy’s mind


Posted on November 9th, by geoff in CT blog. 1 Comment

By Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson

Many years ago when I worked as a mining journalist in the goldfields of Western Australia, I wrote a serious feature piece about an old gold prospector who topped himself rather than be moved from his ramshackle shanty out in the bush and be looked after, at the state’s expense, in a care home in town.

I had had the privilege of meeting and talking with Billy (I’ll call him that) on several occasions, bumping along rough tracks in my old Toyota four wheel drive to reach his shanty, trailing a cloud of dry red dust. My last meeting with Billy was less than a fortnight before he detonated some hoarded explosives and blew the shanty and himself to smithereens, so continuing what had become almost a tradition among those of his calling. At 80-odd he had become very frail and it was clear he could not continue to live independently.

It takes a special kind of person to live the solitary life of a prospector in the Australian outback and, while few have that measure of rugged individuality, independent spirit and pragmatic resolve, for most of us it is the loss of independence that makes moving into a care home such an anguished step.

And yet care homes have the potential to give people more true independence, more options, more choice,than they have if they remain at home. Care homes can enable people to continue to be self-determining, to take risks – care homes can do all these things, if they’re allowed to. If they’re not, people like Billy will continue to make their own arrangements.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.




One response to “Changing Billy’s mind”

  1. Tony Stein says:

    Geoff,
    I’d like to think you’re right but alas, the contradictions of modern society will ensure that this can never be.
    Whilst risk-taking is one of the more important aspects of independence and self determination I fear that the “we know best” mentality and risk averse elements in our society seem to be winning the day.
    A care home to me is nothing more or less than the permanent home of our residents – it’s their space and they should be allowed to do within it everything that they would want to do if they were in their previous space. Unfortunately society won’t allow operators to allow their clients that self-determination. Any accident that occurs immediately sparks a series of events that seems almost singularly intended to create more legislation, rules and to apportion blame. “How did Mrs Smith come to fall?”, “Shouldn’t someone have been watching/assisting?”, “You should have anticipated this?”, “Could you have foreseen this and risk-assessed the situation?” and inevitably, “It’s you’re fault/responsibility”. It isn’t just in care homes that this happens but in the care home environment it’s paralysing. On the one hand we’re supposed to encourage independence but if that results in an accident we’re held to be at fault…….
    Maybe Billy saw this and didn’t want people telling what he could and couldn’t do all day….


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