Help stamp out elder abuse
IT’S USUALLY DELIGHTFUL to hear about another Barbadian reaching the century mark, especially when that person is physically mobile and lucid.
It gives many of us who wish for such longevity the hope that we too may reach this golden milestone and, given the increasing advances in medicine, be in even better condition than those centenarians we now celebrate.
Of course, we recognise that longevity brings with it a variety of social and economic complications. These include how best to care for those who no longer possess their full physical capabilities or mental faculties and are therefore heavily dependent on relatives, friends or the state.
This is especially problematic when, as happens in a majority of cases, those people made insufficient provision during their working lives for their own financial support after retirement, and therefore are now dependent on others for their daily sustenance.
Through the years, frailty due to longevity and economic dependence has led, unfortunately, to many of the elderly being abused by unscrupulous family members and caregivers. But we never recognised the full extent of this unsavoury behaviour until Sunday when chairman of the National Assistance Board (NAB), Cephus Sealey, said that not only are seniors exploited financially, but sexually abused as well.
Sealy stressed that sexual abuse of the elderly in Barbados was largely unreported but definitely occurs and needs to be tackled.
Speaking at the church service to mark Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2014, Sealy said elder abuse is a 365 day occurrence.
“Our elderly are living longer, have some assets, [are] generally in better health and enjoy some memory. These elderly persons stand to be victimised or ostracised by their own children, grandchildren or other family members to gain control of their assets,” said Sealy.
He added that abuse was also inflicted by some care providers and by children who felt as though they had been abandoned by one or both of their parents during their formative years.
The chairman cited instances of parents forced to provide for their children and grandchildren; an elderly person having to sleep with jewellery and money on their person at night for fear of it being stolen; elderly persons being left in soiled clothing or lying on soiled mattresses; others being compelled to hand over their pension cheques; and suffering various forms of sexual abuse.
According to Sealy, the shame associated with such treatment has led seniors to pray for death, refuse to eat or leave their beds, commit suicide, deliberately fall and injure themselves, or cross busy streets where there is a possibility of being struck.
This sort of treatment of the elderly is unconscionable and those who are guilty of it should be ashamed.
We wholeheartedly support the NAB, in conjunction with the Planning Committee for Activities for Older Persons, to create a national protocol for the prevention and reporting, investigation and management of elder abuse.
Every right-thinking Barbadian should report their suspicions of elder abuse to these authorities and help stamp out this disgusting practice.