Raising voices into action to end elder abuse
The Premium Home and Residential Care Services (PHARCS)and the Dominica Council on Ageing held an event in observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day observed all over the world on the 15th June.
The Theme this year was "Access to Justice - raising voices into action to end elder abuse"
Our objective in raising awareness is principally to, working with government, local and international agencies and the public, detect elder abuse and put systems in place to protect the elderly. That was the purpose of our event last Saturday which was extremely well attended. The speakers were dynamic and we now know that there are remedies that can be sought under the Domestic Violence Act and we are already working on setting up a free helpline to provide advice and support to those affected by elder abuse. Here is a summary of the points highlighted by the various speakers:
• We need to continue raising awareness of elder abuse. The public need to be informed. We need to conduct surveys and put together statistics so as to enable us to assess the gravity of the situation which in turn will help us to put in place safeguarding systems that will actually benefit the victim.
• Front line staff such as nurses, health assistants, doctors, etc. need training to enable them to identify possible elder abuse. We need training programmes for the community and in schools.
• Caregivers need formal training - especially those who care for persons with Dementia.
• We need legislation and/or regulations to ensure that there are certain basic minimum criteria that must be met before someone can open and run a care home for the elderly.
• We need a register of trained care givers and registration should be compulsory so that persons wishing to bring someone into their loved one's home can be certain that the person they are hiring is trained and able to deliver care for that loved one and this is especially important for persons suffering with Dementia.
• We need the various departments like the Police, Social Services Department, the hospital, health centres, care homes etc. to work collaboratively to identify/recognise the signs and report and take action as necessary under the current legislation given that the majority of elder abuse committed against our seniors are offences which of themselves are criminal in nature and can be prosecuted.
• We need the police to take reports of crimes against the elderly more seriously.
• We need to establish "watch groups" in our communities.
• We need help lines to provide information and support.
• We also need the media. The media can highlight these terrible events even if no names are mentioned to protect the elderly person but the perpetrators need to be exposed and pressure needs to be placed on the police to take more seriously and action and/or prosecute offenders.
• We need doctors, nurses and health care staff specially trained in Gerontology.
• We believe that voices can be turned into action if everyone works together - government, local agencies, the various NGO's involved in the welfare of older persons, the police and social services department to at least take steps to, where possible, prevent the abuse of an older person.
Marie-Therese Junkerre, PHARCS