Members’ work to protect the human rights of older persons

Previous mapping and survey work carried out by the ENNHRI Secretariat before the project commenced, showed that the majority of ENNHRI members have done work on human rights and older persons in the last five years.

More specifically, 33 ENNHRI members were active in one or several of the following areas:

  • Advising government and other governmental organisations
  • Producing publications
  • Receiving complaints
  • Hosting conferences and seminars
  • Carrying out research
  • Monitoring and Investigations
  • Education and Training

Over the last five years, 11 European NHRIs have written special reports in the area of LTC for older persons, based on detailed monitoring investigations.

Overall, the care settings visited as part of each investigation had a relatively high standard of care, and most had an open and positive atmosphere. Moreover, the majority of caregivers placed a high priority on valuing older care users as individuals; respecting their dignity and independence and understanding the value of social interaction. However, all 11 NHRIs reported concerns in relation to the protection of the human rights of older persons in receipt of LTC, particularly in relation to choice and autonomy, participation, privacy and dignity.

The most serious issues observed included older persons not being fed or being left without access to food and water, or in soiled clothes and sheets. Other concerns appeared at first to be less severe, such as a resident in a care home being left with their glasses, hearing aid or false teeth out of reach. However, as noted by a number of the monitoring NHRIs, this neglect could potentially be judged a breach of the right to respect for private life under the European Convention on Human Rights. Such acts may even reach the threshold for a violation of the prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the ECHR, depending on the severity and frequency of the neglect.

Another key outcome emerging from the review of the 11 reports is the lack of clarity as to which human rights standards and instruments are relevant for the protection of the rights of older persons in and seeking LTC, which stands in contrast with other groups, such as persons with disabilities.