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Geriatric care in a welfare home.

Ulster Medical Society
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


GERIATRIC CARE IN A WELFARE HOME C. BURNS, M.B., F.R.C.G.P., J.P. Visiting Medical Officer, The Roddens, Ballymoney THE HISTORY OF GERIATRIC CARE IN INSTITuTroNs TOWNSEND (1962)' traced the development of the concepts of caring for people in institutions. It goes back to the obedience of early Christians to the command- ment of mercy and compassion. Institutions were first established in the East by the Christian Church in the third and fourth centuries. Many were differentiated in their social and medical functions i.e. Gerontochia for the aged, Nosocomia for the care of the sick, Ptochia for the helpless poor. Western Europe followed much more slowly and Noscomia were established in the fifth and sixth centuries in Italy and France. By, medieval times, there were infirmary aimshouses and houses of pity for the aged, destitute, sick and disabled in England run largely by groups living under monastic rule. In the sixteenth centuy this system of religious institu- tions was broken up by the dissolution of the monasteries by -the Reformation Parliament. This abolished hospitals in Englaaid for the best part of two centuries. Then the edge was taken off distress by a system of public relief administered by the parishes, and this was succeeded by the poor houses established under the Poor Relief Act 1601. This system prevailed till the eighteenth century when the system of voluntary hospitals began to emerge. In 1834 the Poor Law Commis- sioners was set up and this established the workhouse. England and Wales were divided into 643 "unions" replacing.the former 15,500 small authorities and each "union" was administered by a Board of Guard,ians. Reforms in local government today seem like history repeating itself! Hundreds of workhouses were built between 1830 and 1840, and these gave care to the infirm, aged and chronic sick for over 100 years, but there was a gross neglect of these groups between 1910 and 1946, a period when the population over 65 years doubled. Although the Welfare State in 1948 decr

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