The Vulnerability and Abuse of Older Adults
Older adults are part of the more vulnerable groups in our society. In every case where an older adult is living in a care home they are served by caregivers, where they are supposed to receive the intended treatment and care. However, cases of physical, emotional and sometimes sexual abuse have been reported in many organisations all over the world. “Abuse is taking place in 99% of care homes in England alone” (independent.co.uk). A report in 2017 by The Telegraph saw 23,000 allegations of abuse by caregivers in older adult care homes, over a three year period but only fifteen people were prosecuted.
Some victims experience theft, neglect, bullying and abuse, not only by professional caregivers but by their own family members too. Some families decide to care for an older relative in the comfort of their own home and have outside caregivers come in to help. This is where many cases of abuse go unreported. Physical abuse and neglect are the most common cases reported. This can involve anything from hitting, kicking, punching and even restraining an individual. Some older adults go through emotional abuse too. This can include isolation, humiliation, terrorising, and even ignoring the person altogether. “Almost 10% of older people say that they are being abused, according to a nationwide poll which has called the situation ‘an epidemic of elder abuse across the uk’.” (caremanagementmatters.co.uk)
Elderly abuse may be happening because the rest of the family members have lost hope in the well being of the relative for whom they are caring for. Mistreatment of older adults is most commonly a result from the inability of caregivers to understand or provide the proper treatment or level of care required. Some family members see older adults as a burden. “An older man was partially paralysed as a result of a stroke. He had carers who came into his home three times a day, but his wife cared for him the rest of the time. Over time, his wife became increasingly aggressive. One night, when he asked her to help him to the toilet, she pushed him and he fell, hitting his head. She then helped him up and slapped him across the face.” (dailymail.co.uk)
We are finding now with the use of hidden cameras, mobile phone videoing and CCTV, more cases of older adult abuse coming to light and more perpetrators being punished for their abhorrent behaviour. Since not all older adults are capable of reporting the things that are happening to them, due to a number of things which may hinder them, such as loss of sight or speech. “Most cases that go unreported are down to older adults being cared for at home by family members, although more research is needed for this.” (seniorabuselaw.com). Due to underfunding in the social care system and people living longer, I think older adult abuse may increase in many countries as we are experiencing a rapidly aging population. “Three cruel care home workers were brought to justice after being ‘clocked’ brutally abusing an elderly Alzheimer’s victim. They were filmed dragging frail and terrified Joy Lewis, 71, out of bed by her wrists, refusing the diabetic OAP food and drink and ignoring her pleas to use the toilet. Her three stunned daughters watched in horror as their sobbing mum’s nightmare unfolded on footage taken by a spy camera planted in her room disguised as a clock.” (mirror.co.uk)
A prison sentence is what abusers should receive but it is not always the case. It may come down to how severe or prolonged the abuse has been or even the circumstances of the abuse or just a lack of evidence against the abuser. The reality is that most older adult abuse that could be prosecuted is not. It is mainly met with a police caution, which is not a conviction. It is absolutely shocking to think that in this day and age, people still think it is acceptable to abuse our older adults. They are still human beings and should be treated as such. They just need a little bit more care and attention. Individuals who want to go into this line of work need to be given the proper training in caregiving and just show compassion. If given the privilege to live to an older age, we could become these people needing someone to care for us.
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