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Elderly living in fear

Cheryl Harewood

Elderly living in fear

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They are often beaten, robbed of their monies by family members, made to live like paupers in their own homes, and left to the mercies of good Samaritans.
In some cases, they don’t have homes.
The plight of many elderly folk is a cause for concern. Not only are some living in inhumane conditions with hardly a roof over their heads, but countless go without food on a regular basis, even though they are the recipients each month of Government pension cheques.
Take the case of Lester, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. Lester lives in his own home with his elderly wife and adult son. He told a sad story to the SUNDAY SUN when we met him shopping in The City, with one leg of his pants ripped apart.
He later confided that his son often beats and curses him, and frequently cuts his pants to get at his pension money. The pants are usually cut when Lester is wearing them.
The elderly man, who hails from the south of the island, said he was no longer the king in his home. His son had taken over.
In addition to a Government pension, Lester receives a pension from abroad, having spent many years in Canada. That pension has also become his son’s bounty, as he is aware of exactly when the pension cheques are due.
Lester disclosed that the abuse “has been going on for some time now”, but that he had no idea who to turn to for help.
 “He beats me and takes away the money. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to. I am a pensioner, and I cannot understand why my own flesh and blood does this to me,” he lamented.
The day that we found Lester, he had been beaten and “robbed” of a portion of his pension.
Lester said the threats he received from his son were real, so both he and his wife lived in constant fear.  
Abuse of the elderly does not strike a specific gender; both men and women are targeted.
Dorothy (not her real name), a resident of St Michael, tried to commit suicide last year.
She ingested more than 50 of her blood pressure tablets, and waited for the end. It never came, but Dorothy confessed last week that the thought of committing suicide never left her mind until a few days ago when a friend told her she would end up in hell if she killed herself.
Always an independent mother, who raised her three children as best as she could, Dorothy’s hardships started when she lost her job and her children started to ill-treat her.
“Many days there is nothing to eat,” the 60-year-old said, adding she had no money of her own.
“My daughter would never hit me, but the words that come from her mouth hurt badly,” the frail grandmother said.“I would love to find a little job to help myself with the things that are necessary. I don’t sleep properly at night. The only reason I have not tried to commit suicide again is because
I don’t know how to. My own flesh curses and treats me like a dog now that I am not working.”
Fortunately, Dorothy was given some good news during the last week.
A kind-hearted individual who heard of her plight, offered her a couple days’ work to help her maintain some level of independence.
Fred, a St Peter resident, is another elderly person whose life is certainly not a bed of roses. He is now accustomed to regular beatings from his daughter, who also robs him of his pension.
He recently poured out his heart to a team of evangelists and missionaries who were ministering in The City.
Fred said he leaves his home regularly – most times hungry – to spend his days in Bridgetown away from the environment of mental, verbal and physical abuse.
Though his daughter takes his money, she still does not provide him with a meal.
“Many days there is nothing to eat,” he said.
He too, has no idea where to turn for help.
These three cases represent just a fraction of the elderly abused and mistreated by their children or family members who they once cared for.
They suffer silently, afraid to tell neighbours of their plight. They are not sure who cares about their struggles and challenges.
These are those who laboured to help build a society, some members of which now no longer see them as having any worth.
Some are left at the mercy of Government, and often “die” of broken hearts, when family members become content to place them in district hospitals rather than care for them.
Unless kind-hearted and community-minded people rescue those like Lester, Dorothy and Fred, they will continue to live in deprivation and despair.
Part 2 next week.