Elderly Vulnerability & Care: It Takes a Village
When I was younger, I thought everyone over 75 years old had dementia. All of my grandparents and great aunts and uncles had Alzheimer’s. From what I remember, my grandparents always had caretakers. Some were great, while others were not. While it is important to acknowledge the wonderful caretakers they did have, we do need to also be speaking about elder abuse.
Elder Abuse and the Problem with Finding Proper Care
After going through the different forms of abuse on the Elder Abuse website, I realized that my grandmother was experiencing financial abuse. She had many caretakers in her later years, and some would have elaborate ways of scamming her. Some would merely take money from her wallet or nightstand, which was easy for them since she had Alzheimer’s. Some would alter the cheques she gave them, and some would convince her to take money out of her account to give them “tips.” My grandmother was unaware of what was happening, so she could not stop it. My mother and her sisters were the ones who first noticed once they reviewed her credit card statements.
Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to find someone honest to care for my grandmother. Eventually, we found a great and very honest couple who were able to take care of her. As they were two people, they were able to retain their patience with my grandmother because they could take turns caring for her. We were hesitant at first to trust them, but they showed us nothing but kindness and patience toward my grandmother. They woke up with her at night, they took her to the bathroom, they fed her, and they dressed her. Once she had her new caretakers, my mother would always make sure she was safe with them and not experiencing any abuse.
Whenever I would think of vulnerability, I would think of my grandmother. I see how easy it is to take advantage of someone who cannot fight back and sometimes cannot even understand or recall the events due to dementia. It is so important to have people with overwhelming empathy to do these kinds of jobs. Family members and others need to be informed of the kind of abuse that can take place with someone who is unable to resist or who has cognitive difficulties. It is hard to track the actions of everyone in an elderly person’s life, but many elders need an advocate who will be their source of support. Someone who can act as a guard, in a sense. Luckily, my grandmother had my mother, but many elders do not have a person in their lives who is able to fight for them in situations of vulnerability. They may not have someone who has the patience to go through credit card statements, or someone who can be continuously evaluating every close relationship they have to make sure there is no abuse happening.
Another family member of mine, my great-aunt, helps illustrate the need for more psychological intervention for elders, especially during COVID-19. Most of her family cannot visit her because they do not want to give her COVID. When I saw her the other week, she said, “I understand that my grandchildren don’t have time for me. They’re busy and they just come when they have a free minute.” Not everyone can or does make time for elders. This increases isolation, which leads to worse mental health and poorer self esteem. We need to make time for the people in our lives, especially during COVID. We also need supports in place to connect communities to support one another during such isolating times, especially those who are alone.
Most of all, we must look out for the elders in our lives. We must check in on the ones we love when they are vulnerable. We have to keep track of those who hold authority to ensure there is no abuse occurring. Vulnerability is hard to get around, but it takes a village to care for someone.