Friday, October 16, 2009

Why Elder Justice Now?

Have any of you known about a person who was suffering elder abuse?  Most of us are fortunate enough that it hasn't happened to us because we have caring families.  Unfortunately, not all elders are so lucky.  A neighbor had a good friend whose youngest son was living with her. He stole from her, ridiculed her, sponged off her and was abusive in other ways.  She complained to my neighbor who told me about it.   I encouraged her to get her friend to evict him and get a restraining order against him.  

Just as in the case of child molestation, the victim felt ashamed of her situation as if it were her fault and for years refused to make the abuse public.  It was destroying her peace of mind and undermining her health.  Eventually it got so bad she decided to do something about it and got a restraining order against him.   At first, that didn't stop him from coming to her house and threatening physical abuse.  She finally told her other son what had been happening and he had her move in with him.  Up until that time she had been an independent lady living in her own home and she was forced to give up that freedom to avoid being abused.

This should not have gone on so long.  How many other elders suffer abuse silently out of a mistaken feeling of shame.  I think they feel that it reflects on their parenting, somehow.  

Now there is an agency determined to do something about elder abuse.  Please check on the link below for further information on legislation in Congress.  It is the Elder Justice Act (S.795/ H. R. 2006).  The act is a combination of law enforcement and health approach to study, detect, treat and prosecute and prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

Why Elder Justice Now?

You can support this important bill by writing or calling your representatives now.


Ronni Bennett said...

An important issue, Darlene. We need to read the bill to see what/if it really does, if it's funded, etc.

We've all been disappointed in the past by toothless legislation. Will take a close look.

Pete said...

I practiced law from 1980 to 1994. More than once I saw an adult child bring an aging parent to my office and announce that "Mom wants to deed her property over to me."

On these occasions, I would send son or daughter out of the room and speak privately to the parent. In every case except one, it turned out that the parent didn't really want to deed over the property.

I wrote about elder abuse several times a couple of years ago.

As I move into my 60s, I begin to appreciate the full horror that abuse victims can experience at the hands of their own children!

Darlene said...

*Ronni - You are right. Sometimes legislation just becomes a 'feel good' empty promise.

*Pete - It's hard to understand how an adult could abuse their parents. Greed isn't restricted to corporations, I guess.

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

You rock, Darlene! Spread the word!

Tom Degan

Paula Behnken said...

This is great, Darlene! You've taken on a really big topic.

I had an aunt whose grandson asked for his legacy upfront, then screamed at her when she didn't write him a check. Another did something similar to his 90-year-old mother and, when she refused, he and his family quit speaking to her. That was six years ago.

This isn't the same has beating or starving someone, that's true, but such abusive behavior must take a terrible emotional toll on elderly people who have devoted much of their lives to caring for family.

Keep up the good work!

Darlene said...

*Tom Degan's Daily Rant - Tom, this is high praise coming from you. Thank you.

*Paula - Elder's are so vulnerable due to physical limitations it's easy to abuse them. Sad, but true.
Thank you for your story.

Hattie said...

I think we need to proceed with caution here. It's important to get good assessments of these situations from skilled family service professionals. I'm thinking of a friend of ours who is being arraigned, actually taken to court, for abusing his elderly mother, when the fact is that they are both mentally ill. He was sure she would be put in a home where "they" would kill her. Well, she is in a home and still alive and he is in deep trouble. They needed services and instead were struggling hopelessly with her Alzheimer's.
By the way, one group that I see abused a lot is non-family caregivers, who are often summarily dismissed and even criminalized by family members after the elder's death. Then there are the people who hang around churches and senior centers offering services like yard work and housework. These people all need to be vetted, because they could be predators.
"Elder abuse" is a very very touchy area, and I am surprised that anyone is willing to jump into the fray here without some careful study.
I speak as one who has had to be very very careful. I walked on eggs with my mother in law, who needed much catering to and tried my patience quite a bit. She was both helpless and "particular." But I never so much as raised my voice to her, though I did do some running amok and shouting in the woods from time to time!
So watch out who you point the finger at, because you just might find someone pointing the finger at you!
BTW: Where do people find these statistics about how many billions elder abuse is costing us?

Darlene said...

*Hattie - you make some excellent points. Abuse is not limited to the abuse of elders, but that is the abuse that I am posting on. When placing blame we must walk carefully when accusing anyone for doing wrong. I agree that we should document cases of abuse with facts, but none of that takes away from the basic premise that elder abuse exists.

Looking to the Stars said...

Darlene, this is a very good post! and a needful one.

The elderly should never be abused and action should be taken against the kids who bully thier parents.

It makes me so mad when a child abuses their parent. I would give anything to have my father around. Children who have parents still alive, should be thankful and caring.

Darlene said...

*Looking to the Stars - I agree.

Rain said...

This is important and in care facilities also. Every elder needs someone outside to be an advocate, to keep an eye on how they are being treated, no injuries with no explanation as many of them at that point are incapable of speaking up for themselves. If it isn't a trusted family member, find a friend or even lawyer ahead of time and make sure they are keeping an eye. When a person has already had a stroke or gotten dementia, it's too late to protect themselves from predators who may be working in the facilities

la peregrina said...

Good post, Darlene, definitely a subject that must be addressed.

Darlene said...

*Rain - That's a very good point to arrange for an advocate in advance if you are alone.

*la peregrina - Thank you.

Friko said...

Darlene, elder abuse is quite a topic here too. And it's not just children who abuse vulnerable old parents but the staff in care homes are not always as caring as they are meant to be. Some horrific scenes have been filmed secretly.

I am keeping a firm hold of my property; as long as I have my marbles (brain), I shall endeavour to keep my independence.

Darlene said...

*Friko - Me too.

Vagabonde said...

Another challenging topic Darlene. Elder abuse does exist but as some said in the comments above great care is needed to make sure that it is elder abuse. My mother was in a great nursing home and told me that a couple of the tenants there who were never happy made accusations against the staff that were totally unfounded. I think that the whole country should look at the way the elders are treated like on TV and ads, etc., making fun and not showing much respect. I find this country to show the least interest in their elders – apart from the Native Americans. Most of the ads, TV shows, even films do not depict the elders in a nice light. There are very few roles for good actresses in the US once they reach a certain age because it’s well known that “old people” are no longer interesting. Most of the younger generation is not taught to respect elders, unless they are from an immigrant family with strong ties (I am thinking for example of my daughter’s in-law family who is from India.)

Darlene said...

*Vagabonde - Society in our country has certainly changed and not always for the better. Lack of respect for the elderly is another big issue.

Darlene said...

*Vagabonde - A post script here. Some elders do not deserve respect, but that is often due to being ill or in stages of dementia. They should be given the respect due the elderly and then the other issues should be addressed. Sometimes they need to be chastised like a spoiled child. I know some elders that have a feeling of entitlement. That, too, is wrong.

joared said...

This is an excellent subject and a difficult one for all the reasons mentioned here. All Rehabilitation Therapists such as myself are legally mandated to report any instances we suspect of elder abuse including physical and emotional regardless of the perpetrator -- family, friend, hired employee, facility staff, or whoever -- that includes all settings including home, hospital, other facilities.

I've not had to report even one instance of elder abuse in my thirty years or so of working with this population in a variety of different settings.

This is not to suggest elder abuse is not a concern, and elders don't need to be monitored for such indications, but doing so is not necessarily an easy task. Serious harm can be done by the best-intentioned individual making such reports.

I have had some other unique type situations including one with a senior advocate from a recognized group to which people can volunteer to help elders. In this instance the advocate, due to his not knowing his limitations among other misjudgments, created serious complications and stress for a patient and her non-family legally designated representative. I can't even excuse what he did as a well-intentioned mistake, though I expect he thought it was.

I strongly recommend great care with education and training be obtained by anyone seeking to be an elder advocate on a volunteer basis, much less one for which they might be paid. They certainly may not be able to rely on their own interpretation of some elder individuals communication abilities and functional level -- understanding and expressing themselves. Volunteers, professionals of all ages involved with elders
need to know their limitations and recognize that they may not know what they don't know.

BTW there are a whole lot of well-meaning people who don't understand the effects of dementia or how to effectively interact and communicate with such people in such a way as to dispense respect.