August 19, 2016

Prevention of Abuse to the Elders

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in progess.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in progess.

A few days ago, while browsing the Facebook pages, I saw some video clips posted by a friend of mine. The video clips showed a young lady giving speech to a group of elderly persons. I recognized the speaker; she is the Deputy Director Dr. Kay Thi Kyaw, the Administrative Officer at the Day Care Center for the Aged, an institution run by the Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and  Resettlement. I had met her once, a few months ago, when I went to that day care center to get some informations for my article: “A Visit to the Day Care Center for the Aged” that was mentioned in the Global New Light of Myanmar. As I couldn’t open the audio on my computer tablet, I did not know what she was speaking about. However, from the caption written by the person who posted the video clips, I understood it was an occasion to mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) that is observed every 15 June, internationally.
I must admit my ignorance about the existence of such a day. Though I’m in my eighties now, I have never experienced or thought there are such abuses committed against elderly persons. Most of us have heard of the child abuses and exploitations quite often, as such activities or crimes are being made aware extensively on the media—on the broadcast as well as in the print media. After watching those video clips, my curiosity to learn more about the abuses against the elderly heightened. As usual, I approached the Internet.
I was amazed and overwhelmed by the informations related to abuses committed to the elders listed there. Some of the nature of the abuses I found on the Internet webpage are cruel and unimaginable. Such inhumane things may be going on in our country too, but I’m not aware of them. It may be due to lack of awareness campaigns or because there are only a very few such cases. Hope, it is the latter reason.
Places where elders could be abused
According to, the webpage I found on the Internet, many elders are being abused in their own homes, relatives’ homes and even in facilities that are responsible for their care. As the elders become more physically frail, they are less likely to put up against bullying or fight back when they are attacked. They may not see or hear as well or think clearly as they used to be, which made them vulnerable to unscrupulous persons who want to take advantage of them. When they become mentally or physically ill, they become trying companions for those who live with them. In other words, they become burdensome to their spouses or partners, children and relatives to the point that those people couldn’t tolerate them anymore. When the situations reached that point, abuses set in.
Who are the potential abusers?
Many elders around the world are being abused: harmed in some substantial way often by those who are directly responsible to take care of them. Most are by their own spouses, partners, grownup children and grand children and in some cases by the caregivers at institutions  and care centers, where they are being admitted. In the US alone, half a million reports of elderly abuse reached the authorities every year, while millions went unreported. If many such abuses went unreported even in a country like the US, it’s no wonder I haven’t heard of such inhumane activities in our country. There may be some, if not many, in our country too, but most people, including me, are not aware that such things are going on.
It’s a civic duty to report such abuses
From what I learned on the Internet, such reports were mostly made by others, mostly neighbours, who noticed elders being abused. Reports by the victims themselves are very rare. I assume that is due the fact that the victims are afraid to point the finger at the abusers as they had to depend on them, or their mental conditions are affecting their thinkings and decision makings. Thus it is a civic duty of those who witnessed or suspected such abuses being committed on an elderly neighbour to report the matter to the authorities.
Different types of abuses
My article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the different commonly committed abuses against the elders. However, in this introductory article, I don’t intend to go into detail, so I will just list the types of abuses without deliberating them at length.
• Physical abuses
• Emotional and psychological abuses
• Sexual abuses
• Neglect or abandonment by caregivers
• Financial  or material exploitations
• Healthcare fraud and abuses
• Self-neglect.
Although there may be some cases of abuse to the elders in our country, they may not be as cruel and are not as common as in other countries. I must attribute this to our customs, traditions and cultures, which taught us since our childhood, to be respectful to the elders and look after them in their waning years. It is quite common in other developed countries that the elders are being dumped in nursing homes by their own offsprings or relatives because they don’t want to take care of them. In almost all other countries the nursing homes charge money for the lodging, meals and care giving, so they would accept anyone who could afford to pay for the expenses. Thus it is easy for the families who can afford, to dumb the elders there.
Our country also have homes and day care centers for aged and poor and those who don’t have anyone to care for them at home. Some are state run and there are also many run by charities, missionaries or individual philanthropists. All these homes and centers do not charge any money, a fact that is unique that all foreign visitors to such places are astonished to learn about that. I had been to quite a number of such places in Yangon and have never heard of elders being dumped at those places by their families or relatives. Only the really needy are accepted after thorough screenings. Finally, I would like to say that we are both lucky and blessed to be born and living in Myanmar!


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