As a parent, you remember the day your child first came into your life. Immediately, you start making plans for his/her future, thinking about your dreams for your child and hope that this life you brought into this world would look after you when it is difficult for you to take care of yourself.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many of our elderly. Many adult children feel that they are burdened by taking care of their parents and want to find some nursing home to dump them. Each year many of our elderly are neglected by family members and caretakers. Many victims are people who cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Nursing magazine found in a study that close to 50% of elder abuse cases are the result of neglect.
According to the Texas Department of Adult and Protective Services, there are cases where they have found anything from people lying in their own feces, those who can’t get out of bed, people who lock up an elderly or a disabled person in a house where he/she can’t get out. In my early 20’s, I worked as a Certified Home Health Aide with the Philadelphia Corporation of Aging. I can remember times walking into a beautiful home and going into the elderly client’s room and finding a room covered in feces, urine-soaked sheets and black walls. The door was closed, of course. My co-workers and I would share our stories and be moved to tears. The tragedy is that these clients were living with their children, not strangers!
Texas Department of Adult and Protective Services (APS) reported 87,487 completed elder abuse investigations last year and confirmed 59,595 victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation statewide. Population projections show Texas likely has more than 2.4 million residents age 65 or older. APS in 2012 reported that nearly 40 percent of those abusing, neglecting or exploiting the elderly during the previous year were the adult children of the victims.
As a result of the opinion that older adults have nothing to contribute, society ignores the importance of an assuring dignified, supportive and loving home environment for every older person. The idea that what happens at home stays at home keeps an older person locked in an abusive or neglectful situation. Many of those who observe or suspect abuse or neglect may fail to get involved because they believe “it’s a family problem and none of my business” or because they are afraid they are misinterpreting a family squabble. Family honor, shame and embarrassment often make it difficult for older persons to report the abuse.
Older individuals who are ethnic minorities, particularly recent immigrants, may face language barriers and financial or emotional dependence that influence their ability or willingness to report abuse. There is a danger in confusing abuse with cultural traditions as in the case of many cultures who do not honor the basic rights of women, and older women in these cultures may not realize they are being abused. Asking for help would not be an option for them because for them, it becomes the “way it is.”
The picture above is an example of elderly neglect. As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center for Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.