“Every time we impose our will on another, it is an act of violence.”- Mahatma Gandhi
This statement from someone considered as very wise within our society, when applied to the subject of elder abuse, makes one stop and think very deeply about our own behaviour and the acceptance of societal attitudes today.
We need to consider carefully the normalisation of abusive and dehumanising practices. How does this come about? Through the removal of rights, freedom and liberties that are generally afforded to all members of our society, which are often socially condoned. Removing an elderly person’s rights can often be justified under the guise of ‘duty of care’ and this removal of rights can often be found in institutional settings, like a Residential Aged Care Facility.
Some of the beliefs that can contribute to covert abuse are that older people are incapable of protecting themselves or making sound and rational decisions and that the way to protect them is to impose controls and restrictions on their behaviour. There is also a fear that allowing an older person to take risks means that the care provider is being negligent.
Some questions that should be asked that help us to understand our behaviour with regards to elder abuse are:
• How might this belief help or hinder my reaction and response to elder abuse?
• Would I be comfortable if this policy, practice or procedure was applied to me?
• If I encountered these restrictions in the community or in my own home would be I be comfortable with complying with them?
• If this policy, procedure or practice was applied to younger people would I be confident that they would consider it to be fair and reasonable?
• If this policy was applied generally to a group of people based on their race or gender alone would it be considered appropriate and acceptable?
Unfortunately, I do see examples of elder abuse in my role as an advocate and consultant to elderly people, assisting them to find a suitable aged care residence. This abuse can be in their own home, amongst family members or within facilities. A change in attitude to ageism is essential to stop this sort of behaviour in our society.