What part of the world are you from then?
#ElderAbuseAwarenessDay #SaveALife #LoveMeansCaring
I still remember what he looked like…
In my seventeen years of practice as a Safeguarding Social Worker, I’ve come across many members in a family who had been considered “old” and “vulnerable”. I can still remember one gentleman in particular. He was in his 80’s, frail and very vulnerable. Adam (alias for confidentiality) smiled as I walked into his home to greet him, saying, “So, what part of the world are you from then?” I smiled back and told him, “London.” We had a chuckle and got to know each other a bit before I started asking him questions about how safe he felt and how I was going to work with his Social Worker (for adults) while I was working with his teenage granddaughter who was pregnant.
You might be asking yourself, “Okay, so what about that makes Adam vulnerable?” Well, Adam lived with his daughter and her husband who worked long hours to avoid being at home; his pregnant teenage granddaughter who was struggling at school; and his grandson who had beaten up his mother (Adam’s daughter) and who would intimidate the whole family by having violent outbursts and who would demand money from his mother.
Now you understand why Adam was vulnerable? There was no one at home who was able to advocate for themselves, and there were too many competing complex issues going on with the other family members that would have left him even more vulnerable if it were not for him having his own Social Worker. Unfortunately, not all older people who are vulnerable get the same intervention at the right time.
Adam’s situation is not uncommon; however, there are many other forms of abuse that older people face just like anyone else. What sets them apart if the fact that they are at a heightened level of risk owing to their age, ability and isolation. Isolation and loneliness is a particular issue for older people; not just in the UK.
AgeUK (June, 2016) reports that the social care system for adults is “buckling” and this warrants an investigation. So, this leads us to ask, what is going to be the outcome as the population grows and people continue to live longer? The Prognosis is not looking good!
Why does this happen?
We all know that abuse takes on many forms: Physical, Psychological, Emotional, Sexual, Spiritual, Financial and then there is Neglect. Domestic abuse and so-called, honour-based violence permeates through these seven spheres. The abuse happens in ALL settings and is characterised by power, control, ill-treatment of another, exploitation,
hurt and injury. It does not just happen in care homes. It also happens within the family home (like in Adam’s case), places of worship and organisations/places of work (Yes, lots of older people work too. They are not all frail. Many are active members of our communities).
There are a number of reasons why abuse happens, the main one being perpetrators often capitalise on an older person’s vulnerabilities. This may be isolation, loneliness or naivety. It may be their dependence on someone to care for them and help them; or their lack of ability to make robust decisions for themselves. In some cases, it is simply the premise that the perpetrator THINKS the older person is a “soft touch” and they can get away with it; so they will try it! Despicable!
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (2014) carried out a piece of research which included over 2,000 participants, the vast majority being over 50 years old and 120 being under that age. The participants were from 50 countries, including the UK. GAROP wanted to find out if older people felt discriminated against. Their findings were that older people felt they were a drain on their family and society; they felt useless and incompetent, and many reported being victims of abuse.
The impact of abuse is devastating! When I deliver training on Domestic Abuse and Violence, I talk about the toxic-trio. Well, I’m going to use the same term here and relate it to the impact of abuse on older people. There is a significant impact to their mental, emotional and physical state. Often, the impact of abuse is death.
I want you to ask yourself some questions:
1) What must it feel like to be so alone with your peers either in care homes or deceased?
2) What must it feel like to live in a world where everything has changed SO much that you feel isolated from the world?
3) Would you cope and survive in a situation where you are dependent upon people to care for you, but who instead hurt you emotionally, physically and sexually?
I couldn’t cope either. We can do something to make small yet effective changes.
What can WE do about it?
There are lots of things we can do that might be small, but it means a lot to the beneficiary; plus, if everyone dies a little, it can make a big difference. Here are my five top tips for you playing your part in #SafeguardingOurSeniors:
1 – Pay more attention to what is going on around us., Notice the older people in your workplace, community and home. Are their needs being fully met? Can you do anything to help them, even if it’s a one-off helping hand! #EveryLittleHelps (Ok, I know that strapline belongs to Tesco).
2 – Volunteer at your local centre or place of worship where there are workshops for older people. Again, you’ll be making a big difference to one person’s life; maybe more.
3 – Support Charities or organisations such as AgeUK, Age Concern, Samaritans or specific community groups in your area by fundraising or donating.
4 – Report abuse or suspected abuse. It will not go away, and someone else won’t report it! YOU have to take responsibility for what you see and hear. If you’re unsure that what you have heard of seen is abuse, then talk you can always talk it through with authorities or organisations such as the Police, the Adult Safeguarding Team in your borough and Action on Elder Abuse Helpline. Their Details are at the bottom of this blog.
5 – Don’t be a hero and try to manage it by yourself. Everyone needs support and someone to talk to, so don’t be ashamed or worried about getting help for yourself. By doing so, it is more likely that you will be in a better place to help others. :O)
Knowledge is power, so read and get clued up on the issue!
1) AgeUk, June 2017. Safeguarding Older People from Abuse and Neglect. Available at: <http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/Factsheets/FS78_Safeguarding_older_people_from_abuse_fcs.pdf?dtrk=true> Accessed: 14-06-17.
2) GAROP, 2014. In Our Own Words. Available at: <http://www.rightsofolderpeople.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/In-Our-Own-Words-2015-English.pdf> Accessed: 14-06-17.
Some useful websites:
Getting home and social support for an older person in their area:
Arranging social and other support services (e.g. financial, practical, etc.) for an older person:
Reporting abuse or concerns for an older person:
If you need help while you support an older person: