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In Retirement Home: A Great National Debate!

In France, at the initiative of the President, the government has launched, from January to April 2019, a great national debate on key issues... and mayors opened their city hall to ensure that the citizens can express their expectations. On Saturday, March 9th, the Saint Brieuc’s Retirement Home of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit opened its doors at the initiative of the "Vulnerability and Society Circle" and the Association of Nursing Home Directors with which Mr Couratin Director of this House is involved. Was particularly invited Mr Bruno Joncour, deputy of the 1st constituency of the Côtes d'Armor. Some 80 people participated: residents, the nursing home staff, members of the Board of Directors, residents’ family members, volunteers and... Marin, the handi'dog!

Five topics were selected for this debate and presented by the residents themselves revealing many aspects of their life in this house, sometimes situating them in a broader reality: - Restoring the place of the elderly in society – Review the terms used which may be reductionist such as the term "EHPAD" (Housing for dependent elderly people) – Develop and ensure access to the socio-cultural way of life of the city – Increase the number of professionals and provide adapted training to this environment – Promote autonomy and accountability for the elderly – To ensure that each person finds the means to live and age with dignity.

Personal testimonies concretely expressed either the benefits of being in a retirement home, or the sadness and disadvantages, such as: the thousand services given between residents such as reading to the visually impaired, a smile, reminders for activities, time... (Jeannine), the freedom to come and go, to shop, but also the disappointment of being there without being recognized in your prior history, to all this can be added "Once my retirement pension paid, I have nothing left for my hobbies and personal needs..." (Alexine) and concerns regarding the lack of caregivers (Marie-Armelle with Marguerite Marie). When talking about the reductionist terms, a recent resident explained that for her the term  "EHPAD" sounds like "Place of death"! It was a true debate because the microphone circulated among the audience to either dispute the opinions expressed or to complete them...

Proposals emerged: that the retirement home be like a new family, be regarded as a model of society, that the term EHPAD be replaced by "Elders Residential home" or another name … that the term of "dependence" be replaced by "loss of autonomy", to ensure a real revaluation of pensions and that careers in elderly care be better paid…

In conclusion, a few words from Mr.Joncour: "This debate is useful, it is an exercise that leads to listening to one another, to share, talk to each other. The models of healthcare discussed do not only concern residences for the elderly, but everyone one us, it's everyone's responsibility, because we are all concerned in our life course. We can certainly see a few leaps forward in legislation, changes in management, but the increasing life expectancy creates a new situation that we must take responsibility for to allow elderly people to live a normal life. This Home is a living place not an End of life place, the staff is the driving force of this place of life, like everything that makes life pleasant. All that contributes to the comfort, to the quality of relations between residents, with the staff members.... including Marin, contributes to building a human community.

The elderly person continues to feel "citizen" of his city, as proof, adds humorously Mr. Joncour, "the monitoring" of the progress of the construction work in downtown Saint Brieuc mentioned here by some residents!...

We must make known the attractiveness of this beautiful job, the service to others, one of the most prestigious jobs, these vocations that do not count the minutes. Political matters which speak to my heart: that the status of the elderly becomes a national cause. The strength of a civilization is measured by its ability to give its seniors the right to live well, its "wise men and wise women".

Some echoes from the participants: "Debate which needed to be done" "Invigorating afternoon" "it was for me the opportunity to feel what is lived here" "Many things have been said and I particularly keep in mind the necessity to put a human dimension in our retirement homes."

Jeanne and Marie-Thérèse, DHS. Published the 10th of March 2019 –

Filles du Saint-Esprit 15 bd. Sebastopol 35101 Rennes Cedex 2 France

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