Elder abuse awareness day
Today was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Just the fact that we need such a day makes me wonder what pushes a person to act so awfully. It brought to mind a course from my law school days, Children and the Law. During one class, a panel of lawyers who practised in the area came to speak to us. One panelist’s comments have stuck with me through all these years. He said,
“Before we had children we couldn’t believe anyone would abuse children. After we had children we couldn’t believe more people didn’t abuse them.”
At the time I thought the comment was funny and clever but it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how true those words were. Frustration, misunderstanding and sleep deprivation can push you to the limits of your personal reserves of patience and love with your children. The same is true at the other end of the spectrum, with parents.
Addressing elder abuse is fraught with challenge and taboo. Physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse or neglect in relationships where trust is expected can be shocking. Knowledge and education about rights and responsibilities is an important step and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse is doing good work in this area. Another important factor is to ensure that caregivers have adequate support services available to them. Understanding the reasons for challenging behaviour allows an adult child to be more patient with their parent suffering from dementia and have better coping strategies. Having access to respite services allows a caregiver to recharge their own batteries. As a society it is important for us to spend as much energy and resources on the elderly as we do on children. These are issues that require society’s time, attention and resources.
Nicole Scheidl is the founder of Fit Minds, which provides support in the area of cognitive health.