Elder Abuse: When Talking Domestic Violence Awareness, Let’s Not Forget Elder Abuse
“Domestic violence affects millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status. It’s not just punches and black eyes — it’s yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats and isolation. It’s stealing a paycheck, keeping tabs online, non-stop texting, constant use of the silent treatment, or calling someone stupid so often they believe it.”
Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence
Domestic violence against the elderly is an unfortunate fact of life.
I suppose in the above description one could stretch the imagination to include “age” in the word “status.” However, I want to be explicit about elder abuse – or domestic violence against senior citizens. After children, our elders are among the most vulnerable group without a voice. Violence is often committed against seniors by family members and caretakers. Seniors are violated within the walls of nursing homes by those paid to take care of them. My plea is that we do not overlook this group during this designated time to become more aware of the inhumane and often deadly abuse that is inflicted on seniors on a daily basis.
Much Elder Abuse Goes Unreported
The statistics are chilling. Approximately 20% of the elderly population, with estimates as high 5 million elders are abused in the United States each year. And the sad news is that perhaps only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported. With the Baby Boomer generation moving deeper into their golden years, this will continue to be a growing problem in our culture unless we make continuous efforts to bring the issue to the awareness of the general population.
Violence Against Elders Is Usually Committed By Family Members
According to studies on the subject, the perpetrator in most elder abuse cases (roughly two thirds, according to estimates) is a family member. Typically it is most often the victim’s adult child or spouse. Considering that most elder abuse victims depend on their abuser for basic needs, as they may be suffering from physical or mental impairments that are common in the older segments of the population it is not surprising that so much abuse goes unreported.
The stress placed on family members caring for their elderly loved ones is often what pushes them into becoming abusers without even realizing it. They may be unprepared for the emotional and financial stress, exhaustion and subsequent resentment that can come with caring for the elderly. Studies also show that some abusers have problems with alcohol and/or drugs and may be financially dependent on the resources of the elderly person.
A Push For Greater Understanding And A More ‘Age-Friendly’ Society
Whatever causes one to be violent to anyone, be it a child, a spouse or an elderly parent or patient is in itself a cry for help. Something is amiss in that person’s life that must be addressed. As we grow into greater awareness about the nature and causes of abuse, perhaps our culture will become more age friendly. Perhaps we will hold our elders in deep respect and admiration instead of considering them a burden or disruption in our lives.
Plan For Your Own Future Before It’s Too Late
Until that time, it’s a good idea, before getting to a point where you are not fully capable of making important decisions to plan for your own future. With a power of attorney or a living will, you can address health care decisions now to avoid confusion and family problems later. With an estate and asset protection plan you can avoid some of the financial issues that plague many older victims. And, always remember to seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
Violence Is Not Acceptable
Elder Abuse Awareness Month is held every June. However, violence is violence. Every opportunity to spread awareness and help bring an end to violence against women, children and the elderly is one that needs to be taken and run with. To this end, I share information and encourage anyone who is in the position of caring for an elderly loved one to take time to review their own behavior toward the person in their care. Consider if you are being abusive in any way. If you’ve had thoughts about abusing your loved one, that is the beginning. Please seek help. We can always be more loving and more friendly toward those who are now dependent on us as we were once fully dependent on their loving care.