At least 73% of the elderly population experienced abuse during the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic this year, according to a report released by the Agewell Foundation.
The report, which took responses from 5,000 elderly also highlighted that 82% of those respondents said that their lives have been adversely affected due to the current Covid-19 situation which proved devastating on many counts for almost all sections of society.
The respondents said that cases of abuse against them increased during and after the lockdown period. Among them, 61% said interpersonal relationships to be the main factor for increased incidences of elder abuse in households. The survey also showed that 65% of these aged people were facing neglect in their life while at least 58% of them said that they were suffering abuse in their families and in society. Although alarming, the findings are not surprising. As per WHO, elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence, WHO says, constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.
Abusive acts, the world body says, may include physically restraining patients, depriving them of dignity, intentionally providing insufficient care, over- and under-medicating and withholding medication from patients and emotional neglect.
In such a scenario, the government must come up with preventive measures which should encompass awareness regarding common elderly problems. Government may look towards WHO delineated strategies to prevent elder abuse and to take action against it and mitigate its consequences.
There is a need for public and professional awareness campaigns, screening of potential victims and abusers, residential care policies to define and improve standards of care. Besides, there should be efforts to respond to and prevent further abuse which may include interventions such as mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities, psychological programmes for abusers, helplines to provide information and referrals.
Experts say that multiple sectors and interdisciplinary collaboration can contribute to reducing elder abuse and among others include the social welfare sector, through the provision of legal, financial, and housing support. Public education and awareness campaigns along with detection and treatment of victims by primary health care workers also prove helpful in this regard. Above all, people should address geriatric problems on their own and treat the elders as assets to be respected and care for them.