ELDER ABUSE IN THE ALASKA NATIVE AND NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

Many of us have seen images of Alaskan Natives and Native Americans. Those images shows the respect and the high regard the elders in the groups held. Younger members of the tribe looked and sought the elders’ guidance.

Unfortunately, times have changed. It is estimated that at least 16% of the projected Alaska Native population of over 140,000 people will be 65 or older. Aging among all Alaskans is becoming a public health issue, and the costs involved in caring for them is rapidly emerging as an important health and public policy issue.

Alaska has been working on raising awareness of elder abuse. According to reports by the National Indian Council on Aging and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, it can be expected that the prevalence rate for elder abuse can range between 5,600 and 8,400 cases. The problem of elder abuse among Alaska Natives and American Indians has received increasing recognition.  Many feel that the problem is a result of alcohol and substance abuse and cultural changes. Researchers have felt that federal government’s policies has destroyed the traditional family values of these indigenous people, forcing to assimilate and abandon their native tongue, religion and culture.

Early Alaskan history shows the Alaskan Natives’ children being sent away to boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their parents. These children were forced to adopt western values, contrary to their upbringing.

It is dangerous to force people to abandon their culture. Culture is the glue that holds communities together.

The family unit is the foundation for all of us.  The father of life coaching, Thomas Leonard stated it aptly when he said that “environment will always win.”

As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center on Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

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