The terms ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ do not seem to grab a lot of attention as they used to be some decades ago. We have become numb to hear about several cases of child abuse, child neglect, murders and rapes occurring in our own communities. The media is constantly bombarding us with the latest tragedy. As a result, the term “eldercide” seems to be more suitable since it has a nasty connotation attached to it. This paper critically analyzes the unnecessary and unrecognized abuse and neglect of our aging adult population and also explores the importance of advancing care to elderly people.
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Most nursing homes mainly rely on the provision of acute care to the elderly population. As it stands now, the old people in society are largely perceived as unimportant entities in the delivery of healthcare services. It is prudent to understand that the elderly generation is still valuable in the growth and wellbeing of society. We should acknowledge the fact that one of the most important values in society is to offer care to others or be cared for when there is a need. It is indeed necessary to demonstrate compassion, love and nurture to vulnerable individuals in society. The best care should be advanced to the aging population as a show of gratitude bearing in mind that the same old people we are ignoring also took care of us during childhood.
It is apparent that not many people are willing to be caretakers of older people who have varying needs or maybe experiencing various health complications. Although it may be generally cumbersome to deal with frail old people, it is wise to imagine ourselves in the same status while there is nobody to take care of us.
Although the task of a caretaker cannot be suitable for everyone, we may also secure some funds to take care of our elderly people (Kertscher, 2010). There are numerous special needs and illnesses that accompany the old generation. Unless we learn how we can handle the growing mess of the older segment of the population, even our individual future lives cannot be guaranteed. It only takes a while before we find ourselves in need of similar help during old age. If society cannot create a lasting culture of caring for the elderly population, we will be molding a messy future for ourselves.
When we think of genocide, we readily imagine of the unnecessary slaughter of innocent victims and villages that are being pillaged and plundered by bullies and people who terrorize unsuspecting inhabitants. Women and children are harassed, raped, and killed while their frightened families only watch helplessly until it is their turn. Does this paint an ugly picture in your mind? Does it seem unthinkable to even imagine such an occurrence?
Let us now turn our attention to our aging older adult population. Have you ever given them any adequate thought? We do not merely refer your own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, but all of those who fall under this age group. Have you ever thought about them in general terms? What kind of care do they deserve? Should they be treated with respect and dignity? It may be easy to respond to these questions with a quick ‘yes’. However, you will be shocked to learn what really goes on in our nursing homes, hospitals, extended care facilities, long-term care facilities, and even in the homes of some of our precious older adults.
We do not tolerate the abuse of children, animals, or each other. If that is the case, why would we turn a blind eye to those who have come before us? Do we believe that this is someone else’s problem to address? Do we feel they are not important enough to care for? Is it natural to disrespect, abuse, neglect, and abandon another human being?
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So many of our baby boomers have and will soon reach the older adult status and yet we have few healthcare clinicians who can care for them. For those who are in healthcare plans, most of them simply take jobs in geriatric settings to pay their bills. They may prefer to work in sports medicine, outpatient, pediatrics, or any other type of setting rather than work with the older adult population (Katsaliaki, Brailsford, Browning & Knight, 2005).
As already hinted, long-term care is still a mirage for the aging population even in well-established economies like the United States and the United Kingdom (Zanjani, Kruger & Murray, 2012). It appears that most elderly people can hardly access long-term medical care in their homes. Whereas the same old generation immensely contributed towards the economic growth of their respective economies, they can no longer access positive healthcare delivery. As much as we may attempt to distance ourselves from this stark reality, this magnitude of ignorance is tantamount to killing elderly people silently. There is no single segment of the population that can flourish in the absence of effective delivery of healthcare services. For example, children receive adequate care right from birth and they continue to access healthcare services until they become mature people. Why is it that the same ‘children’ are ignored when they attain the elderly stage? Sincerely speaking, the time has come when we should take mutual responsibility in offering care for our aging population. We should not be a country that boasts of first-class universal healthcare services while we cannot offer the most basic healthcare plan for our own aging relatives.
It is disheartening to learn that it may be difficult for old people to navigate aging services even in specialized homes that take care of elderly individuals. Worse still, most of the aging services provided by the local, state and federal government agencies are evidently fragmented to an extent that the old people go through a lot of difficulties when attempting to secure such services. Does it imply that we cannot age successfully even after several years of contributing to the economic growth of our country? Must elderly people go through myriads of challenges in life just because they have attained a particular age? This should not be the case.
In regards to neglect and abuse of the elderly, every effort should be made to identify any potential risks during the hiring process for caregivers by completing drug screens, background checks, thorough references, social media profiles and so on. This would help to potentially identify any threats to the elderly. The latter is a challenging issue since someone could pass all of the mentioned checks and still end up abusing or neglecting one of their patients. In healthcare, every person who commits to this type of work should be passionate enough to address the needs of patients.
Perhaps, most of us have never envisioned the benefits of an elderly population. We have developed a general misconception that an aging population is tantamount to a sick population. It cannot be factual to argue that an aging population demands a lot of social care costs and huge medical bills. Whereas the youthful population is deemed to be productive in any economy, all the necessary experience required to boost economic growth is obtained from the older generation. As a matter of fact, the preceding generations are less productive and active compared to the baby boomers who may be dismissed as a burden to society. Most baby boomers are healthy people just like the rest of the population. Even in the case whereby the old generation is faced with health-related risks, the current advances in medical technology can still improve the overall health status of the old people in our society.
The retirement age should bring about a lot of socio-economic benefits to society. We understand that there are a growing number of retirees who begin to age gracefully as they enjoy their hard-earned wealth (Sharkey & Sharkey, 2012). To a large extent, we have been compelled to believe that old people are merely a poor lot of individuals who rely on relatives for assistance. One important issue that we forget is that the same old population comprises of people who worked and retired at some age and are now ready to give back to society in several ways. For example, old age provides ample time when retirement packages should be used wisely in order to boost the overall living condition of old persons. However, the same old people receive the greatest shock in their lives when the immediate community members and close relatives begin to shun them simply because they have demonstrated signs of aging. When will the old people be productive in society when they cannot be accommodated even in our households? Sending the old people to homes that care for the elderly is usually one of the sources of distress for this segment of the population. As much as it may seem appealing in the contemporary world, it is a major demoralizing factor for the old people.
A number of companies have faced issues with elderly neglect and abuse. For example, Kindred Healthcare has a history of problems related to patient care. According to California Department of Health surveys, Kindred has been continually cited for neglecting patients. In 2008, Kindred Los Angeles was cited four times for allowing residents to develop advanced pressure sores while in their facility (Griffin, 2009). In yet another case, three victims were not cared for properly by a Kindred Healthcare facility in Wisconsin which ultimately resulted in the death of the patients (Kertscher, 2010). A rather lengthy but thorough article outlines the failure to protect our elderly population and specifically cites Kindred Healthcare as a fraudulent healthcare organization when billing Medicare.
It would appear that Kindred Healthcare has responded over the years in both ethical and unethical manners to its dilemmas of elderly neglect and abuse. The company has struggled with these same issues for a long time under different company names.
Finally, the elderly people who are well taken care of can be a major source of inspiration in our society. For example, most of them can be used as role models to the young generation. The elderly people can impart the necessary social values to the preceding generations. When our society is getting out of control, we should blame ourselves. The moral fabric of our society can only be made strong by the elderly people who retire while still strong. In addition, most elderly people generally have adequate free time at their disposal. If their states of mental and physical health can be safeguarded, we can use the same old people for worthy duties such as volunteer work (Berk, Schur, Chang, Knight & Kleinman, 2004). The growing number of old people can be substantially used to offer specialized services to the immediate community. It is vital to bear in mind that the old people are still well endowed with professional skills and competencies that can be profitably used to empower communities. If that is the case, why should we ‘kill’ the aspirations of the old people merely because they have attained a particular age? Can we afford to dwell in a society without the old generation?
To recap, it is vital to emphasize that the aging adult population has been grossly neglected, abused and unrecognized by society. Although abuse and neglect are common terminologies used regularly, elderly people are yet to receive the adequate social care that they deserve in order to flourish like the rest of the community members. From the above discussions, it is evident that old people face the highest risk of being neglected or even abandoned by close family members. Whereas nursing homes for elderly people are a popular option for individuals who are considered to be ‘old’, the same homes have been a major distressing factor for elderly people because most of them lose both the emotional and social bonds with the rest of the society. Homes that care for elderly people are used as ‘quick fix’ solutions to challenges facing the aging population.
Berk, M. L., Schur, C. L., Chang, D. I., Knight, E. K., & Kleinman, L. C. (2004). Americans’ views about the adequacy of health care for children and the elderly. Health Affairs, 23,446-454.
Griffin, P. (2009). A First-Hand Account of Neglect at Kindred Los Angeles. Web.
Katsaliaki, K., Brailsford, S., Browning, D., & Knight, P. (2005). Mapping care pathways for the elderly. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 19(1), 57-72.
Kertscher, T. (2010). Mount Carmel Faces Seven Lawsuits over Care. Web.
Sharkey, A., & Sharkey, N. (2012). Granny and the robots: Ethical issues in robot care for the elderly. Ethics and Information Technology, 14(1), 27-40.
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Zanjani, F., Kruger, T., & Murray, D. (2012). Evaluation of the mental healthiness aging initiative: Community program to promote awareness about mental health and aging issues. Community Mental Health Journal, 48(2), 193-201.