It’s about time we put legislation in place to protect our most vulnerable

Last week, the government announced what was a historic and progressive rights-based piece of legislation which not only replaces the antiquated wards of court system, it also ensures that those experiencing ‘diminished capacity’ will be supported in such a way they can retain control over their own decision-making. To which I say, not a minute before time.

The Decision Support Service (DSS) will employ the progressive provisions of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, and, as of last week (26th of April to be precise), has been accepting applications for ‘decision support arrangements’.

That’s all very well, but what exactly does all of the above mean?

Rather than being made wards of court – something which happened to anyone deemed unable to look after their own affairs under the horribly named Lunacy Regulations Act (1871) – this new Decision Making Act gives every citizen the right to have their own say in the way in which they are cared for.

The launch of this Act means that our nation is finally being dragged out of what was an archaic and mainly heavily paternalistic approach regarding legal interventions when it came to our senior citizens, our vulnerable, or those who require assistance when going about their day to day lives. In short, up until now (in my opinion anyway), our nation has effectively been disrespecting and disregarding the rights of those who have what is deemed to be a ‘diminished mental capacity’ – decreasing not only a person’s sense of self-worth, but also their self-trust, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Prior to last week, (as far as I understand), there was effectively no legislative framework in place in this country to govern how a decision about care and treatment should be made for human beings who lacked a capacity to make choices and decisions for themselves. But here’s the interesting thing, readers…legislation was (still is) in place to recognise the ‘absolute right’ in a ‘competent’ individual to refuse medical treatment ‘even if it leads to death’. What this basically means, (as far as I can interpret it) is that prior to April 26th, instead of there being one law for all – and no exceptions – there was, let’s say, classifications, which, in my opinion, oppressed and posed grave difficulties for certain members of our society.

I was absolutely sickened to read that, during the two years of the pandemic, the number of seniors over the age of 65 being referred to the HSE’s national safeguarding initiative for both financial and psychological abuse rose considerably. Those who reported the abuse (and thank God for these people) cited many of the abusers as coming from these individuals’ own loved ones and family members, with 2,560 cases reported in 2022 compared to 1,880 in 2020.

Nobody, no matter who they are, be they a spouse, a partner, a family member or a carer, etc., has the right to use, abuse or influence another human being’s bodily or emotional autonomy, their finances or their decision-making process, unless this authority is legally assigned to them by that individual.

Thankfully, under this new legislation, the medieval wards of court system will be replaced by a tiered support mechanism, allowing all citizens to weigh up the costs and the benefits of their choices to the best of their abilities. When I say the ‘best of their abilities’ what I mean is it’s my belief that, should a person be unsure as to the steps they wish to take which will personally benefit them in the future, it’s our duty as their loved ones to offer them assistance with the information-gathering process. (‘Offer’ being the key word here, as in not impose, not insist, and not bully or harass).

As someone who carries out extensive (hubby says obsessive) research before I come to any commitment, I know that for many, the decision-making process can prove quite stressful.

To that end, it’s absolutely vital if we have a much-loved and much-cherished family member, that we (if they request our help), do all in our power and our capacity to furnish them with every bit of information relevant to their process so they, and they alone, positively benefit from their choices.

We must never, ever push our own opinions on any other human being, even if we believe they have a diminished capacity to make decisions; rather we must support them to prepare a quality of life that serves them (and them alone, not us), for survival in the long-term.

Why I’ll pass on Euro-trash Eurovision and Charles’ extravagant coronation

Eurovision and coronation fever is taking the UK by storm, with commemoration mugs, keyrings, teaspoons, thimbles and every other manner of ‘tat’ being sold to mark both events.

As far as I’m concerned, both the coronation of our neighbour’s monarch (the first in 70 years) and the fact they’re also (rather smugly, I might add) hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine – due to Putin’s invasion – holds no interest for me whatsoever.

Don’t even get me started on what I think of the jumped up hype surrounding the British media’s will-they-or-won’t-they (as in the public) ‘swear to pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law – so help me God’, idiocy! Who cares? I personally believe the great British public should be more concerned about the fact Charles and Camilla’s extravagant three-day jamboree is costing cash-strapped taxpayers a reported £100 million!

As for the Eurovision, I find the annual Euro-trash line-up of talentless, tone-deaf performers (many of which put me in mind of what former goody-two-shoes Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner might look like on a drunken night out) to be both embarrassing and clichéd! Sorry Anthea!

I also hate the Eurovision’s side order of politics. Remember the Buranovskiye Babushki – a group of tone-deaf grannies from some far-flung area of Russia who (worryingly) looked more like a futuristic dystopian version of Little Mix – getting second place?

Mind you, Russian grannies and the publicity surrounding their twee ‘Party for Everybody’ performance pales in comparison to our own entry Wild Youth’s little am-dram surrounding the sacking of their creative director Ian Banham last week.

I won’t go into specifics, but it seems Banham’s opinions didn’t align with theirs and that perhaps the old ‘guilt by association’ axiom would scupper the chances of Irlande getting douze pointe! We’ll see. I wish them well, even though I’ll be busy watching paint dry and trimming my split ends!

Don’t allow a toxic parent to define your life

I must mention a very interesting article I read which addressed the issue of narcissistic parents.

I not only found this article interesting, I also found it strangely comforting – for the simple reason I’m relieved to know I’m not alone in my own disturbing  childhood experiences of being persecuted by a mother who made me her scapegoat for every single thing that went wrong in her life.

I wasn’t ‘pretty’ like my sister; therefore my mother refused point-blank to allow me wear my glasses which I needed for reading and school work – criticising me, saying they made me ‘look like a freak’ and ‘no child of mine is wearing ugly goggles’.

I also had ‘too many freckles’ and my hair was ‘too straight’. Oh, I was ‘too nerdy’ and ‘too skinny’ too – with her encore being how she wished I’d ‘never been born’. Lovely woman.

As a defenceless child, I remember doing everything in my power to not only please this woman, but to win even a smidgen of her love, an emotion she reserved exclusively for my younger siblings, constantly favouring them over me. In my teens, I came to my senses and cut her off in what others said was a drastic measure…it wasn’t, it protected me; no way was I allowing my own precious children to have a relationship with such a toxic individual.

If any reader has had a similar experience with a parent, may I try to reassure them that the problem lies not with you, but with that abusive, emotionally-stunted individual who has placed their irrational, narcissistic needs before that of yours…their defenceless child. Never forget, this is not your fault.  You are, without a doubt, a beautiful, independent survivor worthy of self-love and of being loved.