Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It’s a rather awkward phrase to pronounce, but a very important day that focuses on an issue that is often ignored and forgotten. Two years ago, I wrote about this as a “hidden problem.”
As founder of the non-governmental organization Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) Jean Lowrie-Chin has been a staunch advocate of the rights of senior citizens. So was the late Shahine Robinson, the former Minister of Labour and Social Security, who sadly passed away on May 29, 2020. Today, Jean posted this on her blog:
Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and right here in Jamaica, we have heartbreaking incidents. Two weeks ago, CCRP had to report on abuse in a nursing home to the authorities. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes 5 types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, financial, psychological abuse and neglect.
In Jamaica, where persons 60 years and older now constitute 11.3 percent of the population and are projected to constitute 25 percent by 2050, swift action must be taken to protect them. Adult children of senior citizens who can financially support their parents are mandated by the Maintenance Act of December 7, 2005 (article 5) to care for their parents and grandparents. However, many neglect their responsibility.
CCRP is calling for the introduction of an “Elder Care & Protection Act” that would mirror the Child Care & Protection Act to ensure that the nation’s seniors are fully protected by law. We are urging citizens to take the best care of their elderly loved ones and community members and to report any cases of elder abuse to the National Council for Senior Citizens Hotline 888-SENIORS (736-4677).
In this time of COVID-19, many elders feel even more isolated than usual. Increased isolation can lead to neglect and exploitation. Seniors have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. We should be aware and vigilant and try to recognize the signs of elder abuse, which the WHO says takes several forms:
What are the signs of elder abuse? A victim might become withdrawn and uninterested – a sudden change in alertness or unusual depression; there may be unexplained injuries (bruises, pressure marks, abrasions or burns); weight loss and loss of appetite; he/she might be reluctant to see the doctor; might look unkempt in appearance; and might suddenly acquire new “friends” whom you don’t know. The latter might be a sign that the person is being exploited financially by a scammer (who usually does everything to “befriend” an old person, who may be lonely and in need of a sympathetic ear). We should make sure that older people should get advice on estate planning and other financial arrangements that protect their rights.
Jamaicans for Justice commented today on Twitter:
Emotional and financial abuse affect our elderly at an alarming rate. As our holders of history, way-showers, and simply, as human beings, the elderly deserve to have their rights and dignities protected. We all must do our part to ensure their safety.
Let us think about how we can afford our elders greater protection from those who would prey on them. Report elder abuse. Let us ensure that they can live their latter days with dignity. And let us show them more love, and more respect. And let us work on that elder care and protection law…please!