Old age: A time to rest or a Cemetery of life?
Every 15th of June is celebrated as the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The day serves to provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon the significance of our elders in our lives and upon the extent to which we owe to their years spent for our well-being. Sadly there are those amongst us who, whether willingly or otherwise, subject the tillers of their lives, the planters of their hearts and souls, to a treatment unworthy of a conscientious and an honourable person. It therefore falls upon all of us to educate ourselves about what exactly is elder abuse, what are its types, how can it be identified, and what roles can we play to end this shameful practice which makes you lose respect in your own eyes.
According to the definition as adopted by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse,
“Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
Pakistan Journal of Medical Association has broadly categorized the abuse into physical, emotional, financial abuse or exploitation, or a general negligence by those responsible for taking care of their elders. Simply put, any action or even a gesture which causes our elders distress is to be considered as elder abuse and should be dealt with accordingly. For the years our elders have invested to let their children grow into independent units of their own families, merit not only respect and recognition, but an honoured position of love and care, trust and a well-regarded authority.
Even so, let us acknowledge quite honestly that despite being a part of our traditionally respectful society to its elders, we tend to overlook our duties to our elders. Often it happens that we fail to manage our personal stresses and familial obligations. As a result, recent researches have revealed that this abuse is gradually growing within our own society and rapidly so in other parts of the world.
To control and prevent the damage caused by the active malice or the cold indifference of such an abuse, let us understand how to identify it. The most subtle types of abuse include emotional abuse or negligence by the caregivers or by the elders themselves. Thus, if you notice any of the following signs, please consider it a significant indication of either of the two kinds of abuse and act accordingly.
Emotional abuse warning signs
- Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior
- Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves
Elder neglect or self-neglect warning signs
- Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
- Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
- Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
- Being left dirty or unbathed
- Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
- Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring; other fire hazards)
- Desertion of the elder at a public place” (elder abuse and neglect help guide.org)
In addition to these signs let us be keenly observant with regards to the social needs of our elders. If owing to their weakness or dependency they are experiencing loneliness or isolation, let us be their companions, and in effect crutches or walking canes for their souls to lean upon and rest, or to move about in the socially debilitating busyness of today’s life
In essence, elder abuse is a curse laid down upon people by those who arrogantly forget that the time is approaching when they themselves would go through old age and the problems of an empty nest. Let us treat our elders as we would wish ourselves to be treated in future!