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We As A Society Must Fight Against Elder Abuse, Especially In The South Asian Community

By Dr. Kala Singh

June 15th is Elder Abuse Awareness Day so in this article I will discuss Elder Abuse. Elder Abuse is prevalent in all communities. In our culture sometimes young couples bring their elderly parents from India for baby-sitting, but do not like their advice or interference in their personal life, leading to elderly abuse. Elder’s poor health, low or no income, loss of meaningful role in the family or death in the family can damage relationships with spouse and children, which in extreme cases lead to abuse.

Elder abuse is any harm, violent or abusive done to an elderly person and is a crime.

The types of elderly abuse are:

  • Talking rudely,
  • Forceful confinement of the older person to a chair, room or bed,
  • Pushing, slapping or beating the older person,
  • Neglecting the elderly and not taking care of their daily needs, as food, clothes and shelter,
  • Not taking them to see a doctor while being sick,
  • Insulting, humiliating and threatening the older person,
  • Ignoring and not talking to them as if they are not members of the family,
  • Forcing elderly person to sell personal property and taking their money,
  • Forcibly taking elderly person’s pension cheque and money,
  • Fraud, forgery and extortion with elderly,
  • Wrongful use of Power of Attorney of the elderly.

The abuser can be:

  • Member of family,
  • Friend,
  • Staff of the residential house or nursing home.

Violence to elderly by strangers is not elderly abuse, but is a crime. Self-neglect by

elderly is also not elder abuse.

Why elderly person do not report their abuse:

  • They are afraid of the abuser and under their complete control,
  • They think they will be put in a residential or nursing home,
  • They are ashamed to tell others that their own family members are assaulting them and stealing their pension cheques and money,
  • They think that no one, even police or social workers can help them.

Why those who know about the abuse do not report:

  • They do not know whom to report,
  • They do not want to get involved in other’s family affairs,
  • They do not know what can be done,
  • Elderly person requests them not to report.

Causes of elderly abuse:

  • There are more chances of elderly abuse when the family is going through difficult time and is under stress. During such times looking after the elderly is an added strain.
  • The elderly may have abused abuser in the past, so this is a form of getting revenge from them.
  • With no income and social assistance, elderly are forced to live with their daughter who has sponsored them, which is culturally not appropriate. In such cases son in law and his relations insult and humiliate them.
  • Those elderly who are dependant upon their son, it is the time for daughter in law to take revenge from them.
  • Drug or alcohol problem in the family.
  • Mental health problem in the family.
  • A frustrated staff of the residential facility may abuse an elderly.

  • Some elders demand same type of respect they had in the village.
  • Too much interference by the elderly in the daily affairs of their children.
  • They are always finding fault or criticizing what ever the children do.
  • Grumbling and never in happy mood and complaining of one thing or other.
  • Doing things in the house, which they have been told not to do.
  • Inciting their son against daughter in law.
  • Staring and frowning at their children, grand children and their friends.
  • Interfering with the friends of their children and grand children.

What elderly who is being abused need:

  • They need the abuser to stop exploitation, neglect and violence.
  • They need safety, shelter and access to financial resources.
  • They need emotional support and counseling in their language and culture.
  • Information about criminal justice system, like what will happen to the abuser if it is a family member.

Whatever the cause, elderly abuse is a crime. There is no excuse for abuse. Personal problems of the abuser do not justify abuse. Even if the cause of the abuse is elderly themselves, still there is no justification for abuse. We should deal with elderly with great patience and tolerance. Rather abusing, we should get the benefit of their experience of life. We should introduce elders to our friends so that they feel that they are member of the family. If we let elders cash their pension cheques, you will be surprised to see that they will spend that money on you and your children. We must keep in mind that our children learn from us. If we adults do not respect our elders, our children will not respect us when we get old. On the other hand elders should also not impose their ideas upon their children and grand children. Elders must realize that their children are not in the village, but in a fast moving society and they have to keep pace with that. If both youngs and elders learn these lessons, I am sure that incidences of elderly abuse will decrease dramatically.

If someone comes to know of elder abuse, it becomes one’s duty to inform the health worker so that elder and the family can be helped.

Dr. Kala Singh did MBBS degree from Delhi University, India. He worked as Psychiatric Doctor in Africa for 21 years before immigrating to Canada. He gives Sikh religious and spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to clients with stress and mental health problems. For more information he can be contacted at 604 327 5253

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