I remember being quite young (maybe around kindergarten or grade 1’ish??) and playing at my bff’s house in her bedroom. We were likely playing dolls or barbies or whatever at the time and talking about how we would be friends FOREVER! In fact, I distinctly remember saying that even when we’re old – you know, like when we’re 20 – we’ll still be friends.
Now that I’m pushing the half century mark, you might say my perspective has changed a wee little bit on what constitutes old. In fact, half the time I refer to 20 year olds as kids! (need to stop doing that)
Regardless of my perspective on old and young and anything in between, one thing that does remain constant is the fact that seniors are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to being abused.
Did you know that you are least likely to be abused by a grandchild than by your own child? (I know who is taking care of me in my old age… ). Sad but true. The prevelance of elder abuse is much greater than we realize and while some of the issues mimic other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, there are some unique issues that need to be considered.
Elder related issues are one of those things that you kind of know about and hear about and feel very badly or indignant about but they’re kind of off in the distance, far removed from most of our lives. The reality is that we pay more attention to things that have a direct connection to what is going on in our lives than not and when you’re not a senior, it’s easy to push some of the elder related issues to the sidelines. (denial maybe of our impending old age??) Yes, we all recognize how terrible it is, but it’s often a passing thought – until something happens in our own lives to drive the point home and I can’t say I’m any different. For me, the point was ‘driven home’ when my mother-in-law had a series of strokes that resulted in her becoming disabled. This started a long and difficult path of hospital stays, rehabilitation, programs and agencies that made numerous promises but seemed to be so overworked that they could never figure out how to follow through; lack of appropriate supports to help keep people at home even though that’s supposed to be the “push” including care workers who became abusive in our own home and sketchy to down-right abusive living environments that can be found in some long-term care facilities.
I wish my story was unique, but it’s not. In fact, it’s downright scary how common these stories have become.
Once upon a time we put a bunch of children in residences for a lot of reasons, many of them political (and not reasons any of us could or should be proud of). That ended very, very badly and caused damage to entire generations of people. Lack of proper funding, lack of anyone watching, lack of realistic expectations and lack of respect all played a big part in allowing the abuse to happen. I would hope we would have learned from our mistakes but when I see story after story after story of elder abuse in long-term care facilities and how the government isn’t watching or monitoring to ensure things are done right, I can only wonder at the parallels between the two situations. Surely, we can use our knowledge of what didn’t work to somehow fix these problems?