The Issue: ‚ÄúAn Uncomfortable Topic – Elder Abuse‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs a topic that some find uncomfortable to discuss, often ranking above the discretion of where and when we should discuss religion and politics. I am referring to the topic of elder abuse. It is, however, one of the topics that will be discussed in a free seminar led by the RCMP and the Family Violence Prevention Program Coordinator at St. George‚Äôs Anglican Church (June 15 at 10am).¬† The proclamation signing ceremony for Seniors week (June 4-10) and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) was conducted by Mayor Katchur on May 26th.
Regardless of our personal views on elder abuse, there is one undeniable fact: if we live long enough, we will all be seniors, and some of us will face the reality of elder abuse. And, for many seniors, (at 63, I am often defined a senior) we will not be aging in place in the comfort of our homes. Statistics reveal that many of us will be residing in residential or assisted living facilities, that seemingly cannot be built quickly enough to accommodate demand.
For many, the senior years are also a phase in life where there is a hope that our adult children will be there to provide us with the care and assistance we need. Any way we view it, caring for the elderly, especially the frail elderly, for the most part can be very trying.
Be it if you are a family member, an adult child, a spouse, a friend or a professional caregiver — appropriate care of the elderly is a huge responsibility, and one that should come with accountability.
It is that simple, and at the same time that complicated. As we grow older, many of us have to face the reality that we are becoming more vulnerable on many levels. Accept it or not, we are going to be a burden to someone, in some way, at some time, in our elderly life. Not pleasant facts to dwell upon, but for many of the elderly, it is already a reality of life.
On a more upbeat side, ‚Äėthe golden years‚Äô can be well-lived if we are blessed with good health and wealth. But for seniors who can no longer care for themselves, it often requires them to make plenty of sacrifices to hopefully receive the adequate care they need, they deserve and in many cases have worked a lifetime to obtain.
If it is not enough that as seniors, our years are limited, in addition many seniors also experience the reality of other limitations. As we get older, we often face the inevitable, the loss of our independence, losing our driving ability, the loss of decision making in many areas of our lives and the list just seems to go on. Of course, these limitations and restrictions are expected but that does not always prepare the elderly for accepting the reality of it all. One would think, that after all the decades the elderly have spent working, raising families, and giving back to the community that the last thing that they should have to be concerned about, let alone be fearful of, is being abused or neglected in their elderly years.
As the elderly population grows, abuse and neglect of the elderly will also increase. Most of us shudder when the media reveals the atrocities of senior abuse and neglect. These alarming acts against the elderly jar us into the reality that abuse and neglect is not only financial, but it is also physical, emotional and sexual.
How does this happen to any elderly person? Well, there are a myriad of reasons. And just when you think I am going to write that elder abuse and neglect happens in institutional living, and by caregiver professionals, you are right. But wait, elder abuse also happens in family homes, and by family members, too.
Then there are those that would still like to think that elder abuse and neglect are isolated incidents, regardless of who is doing the abuse. Not so, according to worldwide professionals on senior care, the RCMP, and Ruth Maria Adria, President of Elder Advocates of Alberta. Adria, a former RN and also a well-known advocate for seniors in Alberta, explained in her telephone interview with OEP: ‚ÄúWe have a moral vacuum, and our societal collective conscience needs to be stirred.‚ÄĚ
Ms. Adria, speaking of her role as an advocate for seniors, was quick to point out that ‚ÄúNobody is going to applaud you.‚ÄĚ To be an advocate for seniors may not make you the most wanted person to be around if you are strong in voice and dedicated to your advocacy. For Ms. Adria, she reads Psalms 23, which she has found to be of comfort to her and seniors over the many years of her advocacy.
Perhaps if it was possible, to somehow garner simultaneously, our politicians, city officials, healthcare professionals, social workers, RCMP and family members to sit at one huge boardroom table in a discussions about the causes and effects of elderly abuse it would better serve the elderly creating an environment that is richer and more hospitable in empathy and compassion and thus reduce significantly the ongoing elderly abuse and neglect in institutions and family homes.
Of course, this column would not be complete if it did not acknowledge caregivers be, they the professionals, family or friends that provide elderly care with compassion and empathy.
You know who you are. Your care is appreciated.