I was remiss, to talk about a little mentioned part of domestic abuse, on June 15th. June 15th was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, with June being Elder Abuse Awareness month. Like many of the facets of domestic abuse, elder abuse is not talked about enough. Most people feel like domestic abuse is DEFINITELY only intimate partner abuse, or MAYBE includes child abuse, not realizing it’s an umbrella for SO much more! Domestic abuse is anything that can happen “domestically” or “familially” within the home.
Elder abuse can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial/material/resource exploitation, neglect, abandonment, and ignoring the elder’s self-neglect.
As we age, our faculties begin to betray us; that is, our physical and mental health begin to deteriorated and we may need assistance from other parties. Many times. those who abuse elders, or take advantage, are their very own family members. Most of the time, the only time you hear about it in the news, is through reports of careless nursing homes. That is horrific, but I cannot wrap my mind around family members doing this to their own kin! These people raised us, safely, to adulthood. Don’t we owe them the courtesy of taking care of them in their twighlight years????
I work for a federal social services organization and I can tell you elder abuse is RAMPANT! The most heart-wrenching call that I received, when working the phone lines, was an elderly lady calling from her wheelchair. She was sitting locked in a room, in her own filth, in a wheelchair whose wheels were also locked. She had managed to snatch and charge her flip cell phone, then put it in her cleavage while powered off, so she could call for help if needed. She was being cared for and all of her financial benefits managed by her granddaughter, whom she suspected of having drug and sexual-perversion issues.
While managing my horror and keeping myself professional, I looked up her information. I asked her to stay on the line with me while I instant messaged my supervisor through my computer (I didn’t want to alarm her!). I chatted with her about what she could see and was trying to keep her calm, although she did start crying (and that made me want to start crying), but I was trying to keep her in the present moment. Meanwhile, I was giving her information to my supervisor to contact Adult Protective Services. I had a duty to report and I wasn’t about to let this lady down! It could mean life or death!!!
All the while I was talking to this sweet, sweet woman, about her unfortunate situation, she was also begging me to not get her granddaughter into trouble. I said, “I can certainly understand that, ma’am, but how long has she shut you in that room without food or water or facilities?”
The elderly woman paused. “I’m not sure. I’ve been rather faint due to not eating and have been coming to on and off. Maybe a few days?” After hearing that, I thought I was going to be sick, I was so enraged. My blood pressure surged and caused me to become light headed when it flushed into my face.
I took a deep breath, in order to keep my calm demeanor. “That doesn’t really sound like love and care, now does it?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “but she’s sick. She’s dope-sick and love-sick, so she’s not thinking clearly. Please don’t make her go to jail. She just can’t help it.” My heart lurched again. I guess granddaughter was stealing grandma’s money and using it for drugs, later entertaining men or whomever for sex when the money ran out, all the while not able to feed or care for grandma. The audacity! This poor, sweet lady was also worried about if her cat was being fed, as that was denied her also!
I sighed. “I’m going to send help very shortly, okay? We’re going to get you feeling better and make things right, okay?”
She was quiet for so long, I panicked and thought I lost her. Finally, a weak, “okay, honey,” came through the phone. “You sound like I can trust you.” I know I let all the breath out of my body, once I heard her voice!
I never heard how that situation turned out, other than APS took possession of the elderly lady and she was safe, after the police showed up. I had to write up a detailed report of what happened, but that was it. I often think of that sweet elderly woman and I hope she’s somewhere safe, drinking tea and petting her cat. I hope her granddaughter went to jail so she can deal with her own demons and become safe herself!
If you suspect elder abuse, DO. NOT. WAIT! Look up your local Adult Protective Services or, at least, call the police. Follow through! You may have to make a statement directly through authorities. Check up on elderly loved ones often. Report anything out of place or suspect! Visit elderly friends and family often in nursing homes or critical care situations. Choose who helps to care for them VERY carefully, getting LOTS of recommendations. Above all, ask questions and don’t assume. Their very life and death could depend on your vigilance!