Well, the lyric may not work with the well-known carol, and you may be privileged enough to have never come across the term ‘Granny Dumping’ but it is real, and it’s a thing… that especially happens over the Christmas season holidays.

Granny dumping (informal) is a term that was introduced in the early 1980’s by professionals in the medical and social work fields. Granny dumping is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the abandonment of an elderly person in a public place such as a hospital or nursing home, especially by a relative”. – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, this isn’t something I’ve made up to grab attention, nor is unique to the area I live on the Gold Coast, Australia – possibly the Florida (retiree haven) of my country.  This is a global issue, and the first person to be jailed for granny dumping was sentenced in the United Kingdom in May of 2019.

It is estimated that in the United States, 100,000 elderly people are abandoned at hospitals annually.  Sounds beyond heartless right?  And yes, it’s usually done by relatives who are unable or unwilling to help look after these relatives, or pay for their care, or even done temporarily by carers who need a well-earned break.  But there often is more to it than seen on the surface.

The Japanese, who traditionally have a high regard and standard of care for their elderly, now also have a term for their abandonment, ubasute.  Some charities have set up a ‘senior citizen postbox’ where poor families can leave the elderly and they’re allocated to a nursing care facility.

The issue is enhanced and becomes more severe over the Christmas holidays when carers often want to spend time with their own families and drop the elderly at hospitals for full time medical care, when it’s social care and assistance they need rather than medical attention.  This in turn puts further strain on an already overstretched health system.  Medics in Ireland have blamed ‘granny dumping’ for blocking access to beds for others.

Many families do go heroic lengths to look after their loved ones and take care of their needs, but there also comes a time when the carer needs some time out to recharge too.

If there’s someone in your family who bears the burden of care for an elderly relative, can you reach out to them this holiday season and volunteer to assist?  Could you take on the role or carer for a day, a few days, assist with running errands, doing groceries and doing doctor and hospital drop-offs; even sharing duties with others?  Could you help pitch in financially for respite care at a facility? – usually the person’s pension covers these costs, but if not, it might just mean the world to someone who does so much.

Prepare for your visit with the older person.  Can you drag out old photo albums and ask for the stories that surround the pictures, those moments frozen in time?  Can you spend time putting the family history together on sites such as Ancestry.com or My Heritage?  Often having a task to do, whether cleaning out the fridge or bathroom cupboard can keep you occupied if you’re worried about awkward silences.  Sometimes, just sitting in companionable silence with a cup of tea may be all that’s needed.

It’s not always moral badness that drives the ‘granny dumping’ but often a desperation.  Some come back after the holidays and pick up their elderly and carry on, others are never to be seen again.

So, if you can make a difference in an older loved one’s life or help out another family member these holidays, why not start preparing for that now?

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