EDITORIAL: Preventing Elder Abuse


Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and across the globe nations are being urged to “strengthen their resolve and redouble their efforts to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against older people” (Ban Ki-moon).
According to the United Nations (UN), the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025. Here in Barbados, census data shows that 14 per cent of our population is over the age of 65 and studies show that the elderly population will continue to grow substantially.
Globally, around four to six per cent of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. According to a UN website, elder maltreatment not only leads to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences, it is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community. This is especially so as the incidence of abuse towards older people is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.
Local scenario
Elderly Abuse has long been a concern to Barbadian governments and, over the years, successive administrations have sought to manage the problem of elderly abandonment in particular, especially those left in local healthcare facilities, placing an excessive burden on hospital resources.
More recently a viral video making the rounds on social media brought elderly abuse back in the limelight. The video caused such an uproar amongst the public that it prompted police investigations, and urged officials from the Ministry of Social Care and representatives from the National Assistance Board (NAB) to make it clear that all cases of abuse will be investigated as “we need to save the elderly from abuse in the island and we need to have a zero tolerance for elderly abuse”.
Get help
With this in mind, it is hoped that those charged with taking care of an elderly person would be wise to seek assistance if required instead of letting external pressures or frustrations come into play when dealing with a loved one. One such assistance programme is the NAB’s Home Care.
Acting Director of the NAB, Andrew Browne recently explained that with the challenges posed by the breakdown of the extended family structures and the weakened “sense of community”, the Home Care Programme is being called upon to fill those voids and provide much needed help for those who cannot help themselves. “Without our home care service a lot of people probably would die, would end up in the District Hospital where there’s no space now, some people would fall through the cracks…,” he said.
He however, pointed out that there is a consistently high demand for this programme with approximately 1 000 people a month requesting help.
In light of this, there should be a concerted effort to attract more trained helpers to work in this field, and also an initiative to provide free training to members of the public who seek to learn the correct way to take care of their elderly family members.
It is hoped that with this increased skill set and more available assistance, that seniors in this country get better care.

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