Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rest-home fatality

I certainly do not believe that westernization is poisoning Korea but one of Korea's best and most worthy cultural institutions is failing. Or possibly, I am seeing the dirty underbelly.

I have always approved of the way Korea cares for it's seniors, with grandmothers and 'fathers living with their family, instead of living in seniors homes. It seems that nowadays, there are more rest homes for seniors (I describe the other alternative below) and they do not appear to be well-regulated. The article in the Joongang is full of anecdotes without any hard numbers but the anecdotes are surely grim.

There have been many cases in which elderly residents of care facilities died in safety-related accidents or committed suicide, but no autopsy was undertaken. Some cases found evidence of malnutrition or dehydration from neglect, but the deaths were treated as ordinary.

Now, I find the stories every bit as horrible as the writers would want but I do not find them that surprising and I do not mean to badmouth Koreans. There are four specific cases described and I am sure we could find at least four similar stories from Canada. As a part-time ambulance driver in Canada, I saw one urine-soaked hell-hole...ah,that's too tough; it was definitely urine-scented but it seemed well run and I heard stories of teenagers working weekends who made tragic mistakes at other rest homes.

I do hope that seniors homes can all be wonderful oasis of comfort but profiteers are everywhere.

One place that I expect to be well-run the Yangyang campus of Kwandong University. It is the younger brother to the Gangneung campus and is likely to close the end of this year or after one semester next year. Plans are afoot to turn it into a seniors home.

I mentioned another alternative. Maybe there have always been senior's homes. After all, not every senior has a family to go to. The dirty underbelly of the Korean respect and care for family is that those without family can be left out. A case in point can be seen in the opposite situation; that of young orphans. I don't want to spread horrible stories but I trust this source. A photo exhibit of American GIs who adopted and helped Korean orphans was cancelled because it did not show Korea in a good light. From this article:

Lineage is everything to Koreans. These kids, lacking lineage were not a no-body. They were a nothing and “decent” Koreans were affronted by the expenditure of any public resources to help them.

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