When I was a kid, I used to love a funfair that wasn't too far from where I lived. It had all the rides you'd expect. A roller coaster and a ghost train for the slightly more adventurous, a merry-go-round for the little kids, and bumper cars for the kid in everyone. There was always one room I avoided. The room that had the weird mirrors. You know the ones, they distort you and make you look too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, everything other than reflecting the true you.
Often seen around the winter festive season, signs and symptoms include the following:
- high degree of apathy;
- blatant disregard;
- total insensitivity;
- complete selfishness.
However, I have never seen quite an obvious case as this one.
The evidence, barely hidden, included a row of suitcases covered in a couple of sheets, the wheels just visible where the camouflage effect failed to meet the ground.
There were passports standing in a sloping mass, with no attempt made to conceal them from us, just from the patient.
Summery clothes all still sitting piled high, ready to be packed. The door to that room was rapidly shut as I came in.
And the patient, elderly, frail, possibly not long for this world, reclining in his favourite chair, barely a care in the world. And definitely not a lot wrong other than old age. Certainly nothing acutely troubling.
The diagnosis is simple. Granny dumping.
This is where the family decides that they need a holiday from caring for their loved one (or unloved, as the case may be), and rather than make arrangements such as other family members, or perhaps respite care, they take the easy option. Make up symptoms such as acute confusion or worsening mobility, and get them shipped off to hospital. By the time the hospital staff call for the next of kin, the great blue beyond will be just outside the aircraft window, somewhere over the Atlantic. So the patient is stuck with nowhere to go, and a cheap hospital option for babysitting.
I'm fully aware of the fact that being a full time carer for an elderly relative is draining. It's time-consuming, and often involves huge sacrifices. I know that the government could be doing more for the people who care for their elderly, infirm or disabled relatives.
Granny Dumping is a little like that room of horrid mirrors. It's a warped and twisted view on the world, and it's totally unfair on the patient.
The only difference between those mirrors and this case, is that it does reflect one truth. It reflects the true person behind the dumping. It's a sad reflection too.