Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eldder Abuse - neglect

I am concerned with those who are rising with the tide. Media attention on senior's issues is important. They are vulnerable. I do want to differentiate between Elder Abuse, Elder Neglect and Financial Abuse.

Those who neglect are often elderly family members, unwillingly volunteered to care for an aging, ill, frail, or dependent elder. More often than not, in my estimation, the stories we hear of neglect are not ones where an aging family member preys on a senior. It appears that, for example, 60-something males who have never provided care to anyone, are suddenly put in this role. They lack the background information, often the education and experience, to understand the physical, social, medical and emotional needs of family members with complex chronic care needs.

Men of that generation did not make meals, clean homes, make doctor's appointments. In fact, many are frail themselves and as they live out their lives in their homes, they lack the means to financially of physically care for themselves, never mind an ailing senior. If they are frail, they cannot make the determination that they need help, nor where to get it. They are desperate to remain in their own homes, even while their lives fall apart as much as their aging buildings.

This issue is a difficult one. In order for an adult to be neglected, it must be proven that they are being refused help. I have found, in my travels, that some independent seniors refuse resources and other supports in a desperate bid to remain in their homes, and to be left alone. In some situations the police, as well as the municipalities have generated some expertise in this area. Those living in unsafe homes, that violate building safety codes, may need to intervene. The OPP in this province have specialists who focus on this area of need: seniors afraid to move, too poor or ill to make good decisions, and unable to fix a home falling part and manage their own IADLs.

My mother, for example, refused to accept health care support from CCAC until it was too late. My attempts at caretaking were abject failures, and I have seen this in other family situations. I know of health care providers who enter a home, only to deny that they need help and refuse such care as Transfer Payment Agencies freely provide. Some dementia patients can cover up their illnesses, and lead apparently normal lives until disaster strikes in the form of an accident or trauma.

Indications of neglect may include poor personal hygiene, signs of over- and under-medication (polypharmacy), poorly dressed seniors (in soiled or dirty clothes), elders left alone and deprived of stimulation and affection, exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Adult Day Away programs, such as those offered in many communities, can help.

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