Team effort to care for elderly

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It takes a community to raise a child.
It also takes a community to ensure respect, safety, dignity, care and protection for an older person. Vulnerability is not age-specific — the vulnerability of an older person is a serious human rights issue.
That is the word from Family Works elder protection coordinator Geeta Muralidharan ahead of Elder Abuse Awareness Week, which is June 15 to 22.
Elder abuse is a serious issue in New Zealand. The purpose of the week is to provide anopportunity for communities throughout the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
Mrs Muralidharan said it was important to raise awareness and recognise the equal rights of an older person todignity and respect and to participate fully in their environment.
‘‘It’s not just about funding and creating infrastructure for care of older people — it’s about raising awareness which can stop ageist attitudes and promote respectful practices towards older people. Quality of care is not only about policies, clinical competencies and staffing — it is about a personcentred philosophy of building respectful, caring and loving relationships with older people.’’
She said there were several issues impacting on ensuring safety and support for an older person in our community.
An abused or neglected older person might feel marginalised, have their rights and words dismissed, be exploited financially, and have their basic needs neglected. Sometimes they became invisible tothemselves, as the cruelty of dementia robbed them of their competencies and their memories of who they once were.
They could be abused and neglected by a caregiver, a family member — apartner, a child or a grandchild, living in a dysfunctional family with perhaps issues such as a history of domestic violence, unemployment, drugs or alcohol.
While some older people found the courage to speak up, some might feel ashamed or intimidated to report on their kin.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the estrangement and neglect of the older person by their adult children could relate to a long family history of abuse or neglect or a lack of respect towards each other, she said.
Living private lifestyles with noone appointed with an enduring power of attorney, and neglecting themselves, meant it could take a crisis or an emergency to get the services and help older people needed to keep safe and cared for.
On the other hand, there were older persons who were well supported by home-help services and age-related services, yet became victims of financial abuse, scams and fraud. It was often noted that the older person had, in these cases, very little information on how to be financially safe and be able tocompetently manage their money and property matters.
Mrs Muralidharan said there was a level of responsibility in the community to look after its older residents.
‘‘If you suspect an older person is being abused or neglected, don’t let fear of meddling in someone else’s business stop you from speaking out. If we all pull together and step up, we can ensure safety, dignity and respect of senior citizens in our community.’’
Two community forums will be held in Timaru during Elder Abuse Awareness Week. The first will be held at the South Canterbury District Health Board Training Centre in Queen St on Wednesday, June 15, from 1.30pm to 3pm. The topic will be the care and protection of older people, what works and what the challenges are.
The second will be held onJune 16 at the Harlequins Clubrooms from 1.30pm to 3pm. Organised by Family Works and BNZ, with the support of Aoraki Positive Ageing Forum, the topics are how to keep you and your money safe and basic banking practices. – To learn more, phone Geeta Muralidharan on (03) 688-5029, extn 814.