On the lookout
The National Assistance Board is trying to get legislation in place to deal specifically with elder abuse, as one official there says financial abuse is proving their most troublesome form of exploitation.
Assistant Director, Andrew Browne, said this morning that while they were equally concerned about physical forms of abuse, the stealing of elderly people’s money was one of the issues they were finding most prevalent.
“We are looking at elder abuse, that is part of our remit because we have noted over the years that the elderly have been abused sexually… Now that we are going out there and doing our investigations, because time before people would not really report it, but now we have our trained social workers and stakeholders, we can go out there and identify them.
“But we are trying to get laws because in the absence of legislation we would not be able to implement some of these things, but we are going that way. Just like how you have laws pertaining to children, laws relating to child abuse, so we would want laws as it pertains to elder abuse,” said the assistant director.
He said serious investigations into the situations of the elderly began about five years ago and since then they have uncovered instances of physical abuse by lashing or restraints using rope, cord, chains, if the person had dementia or Alzheimers to prevent straying; sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment, and financial.
“Some people misappropriate the elderly’s funds, spend the money and don’t give them the help… Financial is the very main one… We have a committee in place and we have been going around to schools and public places and sometimes when we have Elder Abuse Day, we commemorate it, and we are going to have some activities coming up very shortly. We go around and sensitise people to look for different signs of elder abuse and report to us. They don’t have to come to us and let us know who they are, just let us know so we can go do some probing in conjunction with the police and other stakeholders out there,” he added.
Reports of abuse were followed by a home visit to investigate on the situation, he explained, but each of the cases required caution as the accusation could be against a family member living at the residence.
He said the different forms of abuse and the fact that such was treated under general abuse laws, was the main reason they were attempting to have legislation in place to look specifically at the case of the elderly.
With the increase in life expectancy in the island, Browne, who visited a number of homes in Redman’s Village today alongside the St. James Central District Emergency Organisation and the Barbados Fire Service’s Fire Prevention Unit to install smoke detectors, also noted that demand had increased for their homecare programme, especially for cleaners, washers and cooks.
“A lot of them are outliving their children, so therefore they have to have someone come and do those things. Also with relation to the vulnerable persons committee, we find that over the years there have been a number of elderly persons who would have had disabilities and no one there to help them. So with the advent of the committee we are able to compile a list of them so that in the case of a natural disaster, man made, not just fire, we would have these persons readily identified so we can get the response personnel to come and take them out.
“During a hurricane or impact people tend to look out for themselves to the detriment of the elderly and persons who have disabilities or live in flood-prone areas. At the National Disabilities Unit, we have been trying to look at that.” (LB)