Think of the most elderly person in your family – a grandparent, aunt, a parent, a spouse. Would you want them to be abused? Maybe they are still living their life full steam. And maybe not. Put yourself in the position of a much older-than-you person. Would you want to be abused?
My Mom and Dad were not abused as elderly parents. That may be partly because they didn’t live long enough to get past their early to mid-60s. I visited my godfather (when he was still alive) in a nursing home plus visited other nursing homes when doing interviews for newspaper and magazines articles (not on abuse) and found the treatment of their residents varied from okay to really good. In fact, in one instance, one of the nurse’s aides actually came over to a patient with dementia sitting in a wheelchair specifically to take her to her room to change her diaper. The aide gently told the lady what she was doing in a friendly but matter-of-fact manner. This is the opposite to some of the stories we read about nursing home abuse of the elderly. So, I have not personally seen elder abuse and my opinions are gleaned from what I’ve read and heard. The only “seen” of abuse is that TV commercial which is shown looking outside from a window with its blinds closed. Outside in the driveway, a young man is taking money from his elderly mother. We don’t see who is looking out the window and that is very effective for this topic.
The above is financial abuse and in the United States that constitutes 12.3 per cent of elder abuse (See http://karisable.com/elderabuse.htm). Many of us associate elder abuse with physical abuse in nursing homes. But that is only part of it. According to the same statistics, neglect gets the big statistic for abuse at 58.5 per cent with physical abuse coming in at 15.7 per cent. You can check out the website for more statistics. But elder abuse is more than a bunch of statistics.
When you consider neglect, think about someone’s grandparent or parent living alone or in a nursing home and their children seldom if ever come to visit. Or an elderly man or woman stuck in their home because no one – family or friend – comes to help them out to get groceries, take them to doctor’s or dentist’s appointments or even just stops by to visit. Sure, there are “care” organizations (for a fee) with some covered under various medical plans. But they are few and far between. Think of a crowd of people lining up for a big sale at a store, all for maybe five to ten actual items available for sale. That might give you an idea how bad the situation is in North America at least. And there are more of us getting up in age.
Read more about elder abuse, surprisingly more in the home, at http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/elder-abuse.aspx# (American Psychological Association, Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions).
How do we want to be treated when we are elderly? According to Statistics Canada (Family Violence in Canada, 2007 http://imfcanada.org/default.aspx?go=article&aid=1184&tid=8), by 2015, there will be more of us over 65 than under 15. Who’s minding the elderly? Scary thoughts.
Here are links to a couple of recent Toronto Star stories on elder abuse.
“Elder abuse a ‘hidden crime’ MPs say” Nov. 17, 2011 http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1088821–elder-abuse-a-hidden-crime-mps-say
For those interested in the nursing home situation, see “Nursing home reform requires grassroots support says advocate,” Nov. 19, 2011.” http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1089734–nursing-home-reform-requires-grassroots-support-says-advocate.
I have only touched the tip of a really big iceberg which among many other things consists of not enough long-term care facilities, the high cost of long-term care facility living, insufficient number of caregivers in these facilities, stress and burnout from caring for an elderly parent or spouse at home. The list is endless and I don’t pretend to know all of it.
I would like to get a dialogue going on this topic. Please comment.
Meantime, here’s a happy true story. Remember my friend Carol whose Dad died. I talked about that in last week’s post (https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/only-child-on-elderly-parents/). Carol’s mom is still alive and Carol and her husband had to put her in a long-term care place a few years ago. Her mum has dementia (and that’s a whole other subject). Carol’s mom may have not gotten into the best (or the worst either) of places. But Mum has a good friend in her roommate. The roommate looks after Carol’s mom, taking care she gets her meals, gets around in the nursing home, etc. Carol, in turn, gets this woman flowers and really when she visits her own mom she is also visiting her roommate. Just as well, the roommate’s family never visits.
Not completely happy, but the story shows some hope and inspiration.
Only Child Writes