Carol Forsloff – Elder abuse is a major social problem, and a recent Oregon incident reveals many people treat some old folks as objects as opposed to human beings with dignity.
TDN.com, an Oregon publication, reports 26-year-old Nai Mai Chao’s conviction of a misdemeanor for posting pictures of elderly patients using bedpans and the contents of some of these bedpans and putting them on Facebook. She served eight days in jail, lost her nursing certificate and was ordered to write an “insightful apology” for her victimization of her helpless patients.
The National Institute for Justice has examined statistics about mistreatment of the elderly and indicates it is a growing problem that impacts seniors in a wide range of income groups. More often, however, abuse is directed toward single people, socially isolated, the poor and minorities. The Institute reports that eleven percent of the elderly report some type of mistreatment during the past year which can be psychological, physical, sexual or financial. Abuse of the elderly is a growing problem, with an underlying attitude, experts tell us, that treats the old as non-persons. The rate of abuse may also be much greater than reported by the Institute because it is complicated by the fact that some elders can’t, or don’t, report the abuse nor even know when it is happening. Furthermore, research is lacking on many of the specifics of the problem.
Those elderly individuals with serious mental health problems are particularly vulnerable because it can be difficult for them and others to distinguish between what might be hallucinations or abuse. But too often the problem of abuse is ignored and the elderly victimized, especially when an individual lacks a family or friend to advocate for proper care.
In Great Britain there are efforts to put in place what is called a Dignity Code that outlines the care elderly individuals should have by those involved in providing assistance for seniors.
The need for a Dignity Code is introduced by the following statement to the Daily Telegraph by Paul Burstow and labor leader, Liz Kendall, as well as representatives from trade unions, charities and educational groups: “For too long, too many of those people have been ignored, denied the basic right to speak for themselves or make up their own mind,” the letter warns. “In this era of human rights, too many older people have seen their basic human dignity undermined in situations where they are treated as objects rather than people.”