June is Elder Abuse Awareness month. Older people are a vital, significant and valuable part of our society and should be treated with dignity and respect. Yet each year thousands of older New Zealanders are subjected to harm and distress, often, by people close to them.
There are several types of elder abuse and they can occur at the same time. Abuse is categorised as:
Psychological abuse: Behaviour, including verbal abuse that causes mental anguish, stress, fear, eg intimidation, threats, humiliation, harassment or excessive control of choices.
Financial abuse: Illegal or improper exploitation and/or use of someone's funds or other resources.
Physical abuse: The infliction of physical pain or injury, physical coercion, physical or chemical restraint including intentional over/under medicating.
Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
Neglect: the intentional or unintentional refusal or failure to fulfil a care giving obligation.
Older people have the right to make their own decisions and choices even if we don't agree with them. They also have the right to choose how they spend their money and have their financial decisions respected. It doesn't matter how big their house is or the value of their possessions, they belong to them. They have the right to decide how they use them, keep or dispose of them.
The small things we do can make a huge difference to an older person's life. Take the time to think about how they can be a part of everyday family life. Help them to stay independent longer, and help them to keep up with friends and activities. Give them time, respect their rights and value their contribution. There are many services out there that can help your elder stay safe, independent and valued; give me a ring you need any help in making contact with them.
Elder Abuse is a universal problem; it is not limited to any one gender, religion, culture, ethnicity or income group. Most elder abuse is caused by family members... and it's not okay!
So if you think you or someone you know is suffering from elder abuse, speak out. Don't sit back and allow it to happen. There are many people you can talk to, including: Age Concern (03) 218 6351, myself (Winton Community Support) 236 9934, a GP or nurse, a church leader or someone else that you trust.
It is our collective responsibility as a community to ensure that older people are always respected and never abused.
Remember also, everyone is welcome to attend any of my 'Seniors' Workshops' that are happening on Thursday mornings for the next fiveweeks from 11am-12.30pm in the Presbyterian Church lounge in Winton (gold coin entry). Topics include Awarua Synergy, Warm Homes and insulation and heating tips and subsidies, become Scam Savvy, Age Concern, foot care, Disability Resource Centre and a visit to the Winton and Districts Funeral Home.
Phone me for more information on (03) 236-9934.