In America, many people are not taught to honor or respect elders. It depends on the culture your parents are from or the culture you were raised in, I suspect. Those whose parents or grandparents come from cultures outside the US tend to have a sense of elder respect. Those whose parents or grandparents are “all American” and do not have a connection to a culture that has a tradition of honoring elders or ancestors tend to have trouble with the concept of honoring and respecting elders. Other cultures have traditions of caring for older people, they have systems of belief and traditions to fall back on and support the idea of respecting other people. But what I see in America so often is a veneration of the young and the powerful–so when you lose youth and power, you are seen as just an old person waiting for death, and why should anyone respect you or honor you or care for you? Our American culture has a serious problem in that respect.
Sadly, this belief is playing out in my own family. On my father’s side, respect for elders is still very much alive and well. We come from very British ancestry, and some of those attitudes and traditions have been continued over the years. On my mother’s side, however, the traditions and connection to culture and tradition have been lost, and that is where I see the problems of elder abuse.
I am, of course, doing my own separate research about elder abuse in an effort to help prevent what I see as a great wrong. Has anyone else dealt with elder abuse before? This is the first time it has come up for me, and my family and I are struggling with how to deal with it and correct it.
My great-aunt is, technically speaking, being abused. Her son and daughter-in-law frequently deny her medical care, despite the fact that she is 80 and suffering from memory loss and is currently sick. They leave her with a baby and a mentally handicapped young woman with the mental capacity of a five-year-old. These people, my cousins, have far too many animals, something like ten cats and two or three dogs, cooped up in the house; they pose a hazard to my great-aunt as she could trip over them. My great-aunt’s bedroom is at the top of an unlit rickety staircase. It’s almost as if they want her to trip and die. I hate to think such an uncharitable thought of my cousins, but after the way they have treated my sweet old great-aunt, a woman of kindness and love, I can’t help but think ill of them.
Elder abuse, like many other kinds of abuse, is often swept under the table and under reported. The most recent number I could find was from the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study of 1998, which said that “at least half a million older persons in domestic settings were newly abused, neglected, and/or exploited, or experienced self-neglect, in 1996. The study also found that for every reported incident of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect, approximately five go unreported.”
I wanted to post this story in order to help raise some awareness. It is sad when a person has lived for so long and experienced so much only to end up in a situation where their caretaker refuses proper care.
You can also see the official website of the National Center on Elder Abuse.