Elder abuse and neglect – challenge for families, government and care givers

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The age group of 60 to 64 is fastest growing group in the Canadian population. As per a Statistics Canada report in 2011, the number of seniors aged 65 and over increased 14.1% between 2006 and 2011 to nearly 5 million. Seniors accounted for a record high of 14.8% of the population in Canada in 2011, up from 13.7% five years earlier. British Columbia has highest proportion of elders among the Atlantic Provinces.

Increased life expectancy presents challenge in terms of pensions, medical and health care facilities. But what is most challenging is the physical and emotional health of elders. Many countries across the world have laws and policies setup to protect rights of its elderly. We also have laws protecting our seniors but every once in while we hear shocking case of elder abuse. Investigations by Star in Toronto sometime back revealed that elder abuse is not once in a while, but it’s happening almost every day. Elderly people who are too weak to stand up for their rights are subjected to humiliation, neglect and abuse at the care homes where they were supposed to be safe and cared for. Most of the horrid stories that come to light are of the patients of dementia. In many cases either two residents suffering from the same disease get involved in a fight and end up hurting each other, sometimes fatally. There have been reports of abuse by care givers like beatings and in some extreme cases rape.

If we look east, in countries like China, India the age old tradition was that elderly lived with their children and grandchildren, this arrangement gave the seniors love and care that they needed in their last years. Though this cultural aspect is eroding in these countries too and they too are putting in place procedures to protect their old citizens who are left at old age homes by their jet setting offspring. Parents staying with children, is another topic for another day, coming back to our own country, we already have procedures and processes in place but have to analyse these policies to give best care to the elderly.

True, government needs to take stringent steps against erring care homes where crimes against seniors take place; true, that if care givers violate trust of families and elders they should be given exceptional punishments to deter others who think that elders are burden and behave with them in ghastly manner; but we as society, as families also need to reflect upon our actions and duties; elders are not dirt that you shove them  under the mat for now and perform spring cleaning once a year…because sooner or later you will find yourself under the mat.

Let’s not forget one day we will also be living our last days in a long term care facilities and we would want our stay to be comfortable and pleasant.