Friday, May 29, 2009

Elder Abuse: Some tips for Senior citizens

Elder abuse - Tips for senior citizens
In a country where elders are given the highest level of authority and respect, abuse of elders at homes, in nursing homes, etc is on the increase. This article explains how senior citizens can protect themselves from such situations.
CJ: Vyasamoorthy , Merinews 29th May 2009

WHEN SENIOR citizens are abused on account of their defenceless position by younger relatives or others, ‘elder abuse’ takes place. SC have a lesser capacity to fight for their own rights because of diminishing health, dependence on care givers, poverty, loss of memory, lack of money, inability to adjust to the present generation or ignorance. The abuse may be financial, emotional and mental, physical – including sexual, verbal or through constant threatening, etc. Another aspect is neglect, leading to loneliness, isolation or mental depression.
A son pressurising his aged father to transfer his property to his (son’s) name, a daughter neglecting to take care of her mother physically when she is bed-ridden, not providing food, harassing by hurling verbal abuses and insults, beating, deserting, cheating by taking away an old man’s money – all these are examples of elder abuse.

The problem should be addressed by all sections of the society, such as the SC themselves, friends and relatives, SC associations, counselling centres, police, government organisations, NGOs, etc. However, the following are some tips regarding what the SC can do to protect themselves:
  • SC should empower themselves with facts, information and data required to face and tackle abuse. They should have phone numbers and addresses of lawyers, doctors, police, pressure groups, counselling centres and the like. They should read up about the issue and discuss it with peers and be knowledgeable; ignorance of rights and the law in particular, is harmful. Ignorance puts the SC in a vulnerable position. Recently, a SC wrote a will that was not fully acceptable to his son. The son made a scene. This happened because the old man thought that he had a lawful duty to read out the contents before sealing the will and giving it to the lawyer, because that was what his father had done several decades ago. The old man could have avoided unpleasantness, had he know the law correctly.
  • SC should join several associations and peer groups like walkers’ clubs, prayer groups, day care centres, etc. When they are abused, they should openly discuss it with others without feeling shy or ashamed. One of the greatest hurdles in handling abuse is non-cooperation by the affected individuals. They most often feel, “How can I complain against my own children?”
  • SC must make themselves financially sound and independent.
    They should never give away their property to their wards or disclose all their assets to everyone. Wherever feasible, they should not hesitate to take Reverse Mortgage Loans and ensure a steady flow of income. It is preferable to stack away important asset papers in a bank locker.
  • Taking recourse to legal provisions should be the last resort. Getting angry or standing on one’s prestige, alone, is not enough. Civil suits take years to reach conclusions. A lot of time and money will be wasted in lawsuits. In my opinion, only two people should go to court – the insane, and the lawyer – the first because he has nothing to loose, and the latter, because he can not afford not to! If one is dragged into a lawsuit, then it is a different matter. A SC known to me is bent upon filing a case against his daughter-in-law, because she refuses to cook for him! That is not a legitimate ground for elder abuse!

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