WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE?
Elder abuse refers to any form of mistreatment or abuse of an older person. It is a violation of the fundamental human rights of older persons – including both older men and women, either at home or at institutional settings.
It also means any action or inaction that causes harm or distress to an elderly person .
According to World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse is defined as, “A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
In Ghana, most elder abuse cases occur in the home setting, often perpetrated by family members since institutions for elder care are basically non-existent. The lack of institutional care facilities thus puts a lot of pressure on families, especially women who normally bear the burden of caring for elderly parents or relatives in society.
There are different forms of elder abuse including physical, financial, psychological, neglect/abandonment and sexual abuses.
Physical Abuse of Older Persons
This refers to physical attacks on the body or causing physical harm to an elder person’s body. It involves violent acts such as hitting, pushing, kicking or beating of an elderly person. Elder abuse can lead to physical injuries such as minor scratches and bruises to broken bones and incapacitating injuries or even death.
Financial Abuse of Older Persons
Financial abuse of older persons include stealing money from an older person, buying things and asking an older person to pay for it against his or her will, changing a will, forgery, misuse of power of attorney and denying access to funds. Often, older persons are so frail that they are not able to take charge of their finances as before. That is when people start exploiting them financially.
Emotional/Psychological Abuse of Older Persons
Psychological abuse refers to acts that cause emotional distress or harm to an older person. It can take the form of isolation, insults and name calling. For example, in Ghana elderly women are easily branded as witches by members of the community or even family members.
Even though psychological abuse of older persons is very common, it is hardly reported due to fear or lack of capacity to do so.
Neglect & Abandonment of older persons
Older persons are sometimes weak, vulnerable and unable to care for themselves. They are therefore dependent on others for care and support. However, many elderly persons are neglected by those who are supposed to take care of them. Others have no one to take care of them at all. Thus, many elderly people end up living in insanitary conditions, and unable to take their medication or meals on time.
Sexual Abuse of Older Persons
It is an abuse to perform unwanted sexual acts on an elder person or perform unwanted sexual acts in the presence of an elder person.
PREVALENCE & REPORTING
Elder abuse cases are rather prevalent in most societies of the world, yet a chunk of the cases go unreported. This is because, the victims are usually afraid of what might happen to them, or due to poor physical or mental health.
The State of many elderly persons in Ghana is currently not the best. It’s time we pay attention to the welfare of old people in this country. It is not right that there are no public institutions or care facilities for the elderly in Ghana.
Government should priorities the care needs of the elderly since they are vulnerable individuals in need of assistance from society. As a country, we have to address the plight of the older population as a matter of urgency. Its our moral duty to do so since we will all get to the same situation some day if we do not die early.
Rose Mary Kayi