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Saturday 19 October 2019
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Letters to the Editor

The increase in elder abuse

THE EDITOR: In a society that seems to be spiralling out of moral control, is it any wonder that the tragedy of elder abuse is ignored and not given the prominence that it should?

Added to this are the recent reports of the increase in senicide – the killing of the elderly – where the very old are seen as “expendables” by some miscreants as they are no longer able to contribute to the economy.

Elder abuse impacts older adults across all ethnic groups and social classes and refers to the physical, sexual or psychological abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of an older person, where there is an expectation of trust.

Many of these people know the abuser or the killer as they may have trusted the person(s) and exposed them to their financial or personal situation, believing they would be taken care of and that the relationship would be amicable.

In very few instances, these older adults are targeted by complete strangers who may have been observing them or privy to their circumstances through another relative.

When my father, now deceased, turned 80 years old, we all knew that he needed assistance and personal care, which he resisted and ordered that no-one live with him or come to help.

He was fiercely independent so it took me by surprise when I visited him one afternoon after a trip abroad to see a complete stranger, a mature woman whom he referred to as his cousin’s daughter, take up residence in my late mother’s room.

He said she had visited him on several occasions, seemed very nice and willing to sit and chat with him, and that he offered her a place to stay as she told him she was having difficulty at her home. I listened very carefully and noted this “invasion” of my father’s home.

I did my own investigations as my father was adamant that he needed the company. Suffice it to say that she had an accomplice, a male friend, and they were both waiting on the right moment to take advantage of what they had seen as an opportune moment.

Thank God for hypervigilant daughters and loyal friends and neighbours who sprang into action and monitored a situation that could have turned out quite violent and ugly.

I have never forgotten the panic that I felt when I just knew that things were not right and the easy acceptance by my father of a stranger in his midst, due to loneliness and a fear of dying alone. Social isolation increases the risk of elder abuse.

But this was his call for help and the rallying of grandchildren and relatives to provide more protective services and render assistance to him on a regular basis. To pop in just to talk or to bring a meal, and to leave him alone, but not for long, when he needed this.

If you have older loved ones, stay in touch with them. It takes all of us to work together to build a community where elder people are safe and supported.

DR MARGARET NAKHID-CHATOOR

psychologist

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