The Dirty Little Secret of Abuse of Old People

grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

On Monday, June 15, nations around the world commemorated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD). Elder Abuse continues to be a significant issue in many societies as reports of mistreatment against older people is increasing.

The thought of harming an older person suggests severe dysfunction in the perpetrator, and with the plethora of local and international cases of abuse receiving public attention, governments are starting to create policies designed to institute safeguards against this type of abuse.

However, elder abuse cases remain, and with global recognition of the gravity and ubiquity of this crime, the healthcare establishment, in particular geriatric and psychology professionals have redoubled their efforts to analyze the root cause of this type of abuse while simultaneously working with law enforcement agencies and legislators to develop strategies to protect the rights of older people.

According to HelpAge International, an organization that “helps older people demand their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty,” older people’s right to be free from violence is not protected under international law. This problem is especially prevalent in East Africa where much of HelpAge's work on elder abuse is focused on, and there are a significant number of cases.

One case involves a 67-year-old woman from Kenya who was abused by a relative, an attack that resulted in the death of her 90-year-old mother. The details of the attack are very disturbing as the woman narrated the incident:

“The man slashed me on my head and I immediately fainted. I still don't know what the reason was for that kind of brutality. I am very scared. I don't sleep well. When I hear any noise I am alarmed. In my dreams I see that person following me."

The unfortunate part is that her attacker was arrested but later released on bail. While the facts about bail are unknown, this calls into question the laws of protection in the region. Relatives are known to be one of the main perpetrators of elder abuse especially as the abuse by caregivers is a worldwide and complex issue. Stresses, caregiver burden, criminal history and substance abuse among other issues are risk factors that can lead to elder mistreatment, which in turn leads to poor health. Governments can improve their law enforcement agencies as well as the quality of life of caregivers and older people.

It is encouraging to know that governments will attend the Open-ended Working Group on Aging this July and support a United Nations (UN) convention to protect older people's rights. The purpose of the working group is to strengthen the protection of older people’s human rights around the world. Hopefully, this objective will achieve great strides as inadequate research into elder abuse makes the problem difficult to tackle. This is because elder abuse is largely a hidden problem.

According to Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Advisor at HelpAge International, “elder abuse is the least studied of the different types of violence in low-income countries as stated by the Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014”. This report, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN agencies, stated that of the 133 countries studied, two thirds do not have adult protective services to support older people.

Governments can do more to stop elder abuse and protect the rights of older people. It is vital that societies raise awareness, challenge and recognize that elder abuse and discrimination against older people are issues that deserve attention.

Contributing Journalist:  @SophieSokolo

South Korea's Abysmal Record of Disability Rights Despite Economic Prosperity

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

SINAN COUNTY, South Korea – Though South Korea’s record of human rights abuse is not as heinous as its neighbor North Korea, it still grapples with abuse of the weakest members of its society. Prior to the latest exposé, there have been several studies and reports on the targeting of poor women and runaways who are approached by brokers with offers of domestic work, only to find themselves forced to work in the commercial sex trade.

Recently, it was reported by a number of news outlets that salt farmers have been using disabled men to perform the arduous work in the salt farming industry. These men are treated inhumanly and most are physically abused by their ‘employers.’ These men work to produce an estimated "two-thirds of South Korea’s sea salt on more than 850 salt farms on dozens of islands in Sinan County, including Sinui island, where half the 2,200 residents work in the industry. (Source: National Post)

According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, the “latest National Survey on Persons with Disabilities estimated 2,683,400 persons with disabilities in South Korea, of whom 58% were men and 42% were women. People with physical disability represent approximately 50% of the entire population with disability. Disability-related policies and services to improve the participation of persons with disabilities have been expanded in the last decades, guided by 5-yr plans.” (Source: Pubmed.gov)

In 2009, the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) published a report that stated that The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (‘NHRCK’) issued a number of “key decisions on protecting the rights of people with disabilities.” (Source: APF) Yet, 5-years later the issue of wage inequality and equal protection under the law is still problematic. Until the 2014 expose by the Associated Press (AP) the issue of enslavement of the disabled on salt farms, which had previously been reported on, had slipped quietly from the public’s eye.

Though South Koreans and the rest of the world were outraged by these abuses, like many atrocities that don’t directly affect us, these concerns became “those peoples’ problems,” and we assuaged our conscience with the belief that some organization has now intervened to correct the problem. However, as with many human rights abuses in the Asian manufacturing sector, we as beneficiaries turn a blind eye because of the affordability of the items that are produced. Many of us cannot afford to boycott low cost items sold by Walmart and other megastores because it has a direct impact on our budgets. But, these savings come at the cost of enslavement or barely subsistence level wages paid to the people who spend long, back-breaking days producing the products we use.

With a population of 50.22 million, of which 632,000 are international residents, and the ubiquity with which salt is used in cooking and other processes, a great number of people are benefiting from the enslavement of disabled South Koreans who unfortunately find themselves caught up in this industry. AP and other news outlets published extensive interviews with people who were beaten, tortured, starved, and otherwise abused but knew there were no viable alternatives available to them.

Those who were brave enough to report the abuse by the salt farmers routinely discovered that their complaints were not taken seriously, and in fact, the legal system (police and courts) routinely disregarded or dismissed these allegations. When a plaintiff was successful in getting their case to court, most salt farmers were given a small fine which they quickly paid. This tacit approval of these human rights abuses only serves to reinforce the farmer’s heinous behavior, while demonstrating to the ‘salt farm slaves’ that their plight will go unchanged.

Thus, many of the enslaved disabled eventually returned to the salt farms and greater abuse because they were unable to support themselves otherwise. Salt farm owners refuted the claims of abuse and slavery with the assertion that able bodied people don’t want these jobs and if they didn’t provide employment to people with disabilities then these individuals would become a burden on society and would likely die from starvation. This argument is specious and self-serving, our outrage then complacency is deplorable, but the real culprit is the South Korean government.

Many reported on this story at the beginning of this month, and just as many have claimed that the government has investigated and brought the slavers to justice. The arrest of a few or the scapegoating of more does not address a systemic problem of the abuse of the disabled. South Korea must face the fact that it benefits from its position as a rising global economy and the political echelon would do well to remember that “...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

Advice on Caring for Aging Parents

old-man-looking-photo-by-artisram.jpg

Anonymous AuthorLast Modified: 23:08 PM EDT, 17 July 2012

Old Man Eating, Photo by Shusthan NToday, nearly nineteen million Americans are caring for aging parents over the age of 75.

Most of the caregivers who are between the ages of 45-64 years old are providing 75 to 80 percent of all long-term care for parents or a grandparent.

Women are twice as likely as men to be the primary caregiver, but often in economically challenged families, the parents are moved in with their adult children families.

The story which follows is humbling and thought-provoking. It is especially poignant in light of the fact that most of us live with but rarely think about aging. But denial of this inevitability does not invalidate the reality that the majority of us will one day be old.

A frail old man lived with his son, his daughter-in-law, and his four-year-old grandson. His eyes were blurry, his hands trembled, and his step faltered.

The family would eat together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon, drooping to the floor. When he grasped his glass of milk, it often spilled clumsily at the tablecloth.

With this happening almost every night, the son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

"We must do something about grandfather," said the son.

"I've had enough of his milk spilling, noisy eating and food on the floor," the daughter-in-law agreed.

So the couple set a small table at the corner.

There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in wooden bowls. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather's direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening, before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly: "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy replied, "Oh, I'm making a little bowl for you and mama to eat your food from when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

These words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears streamed down their cheeks. Though no words were spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening, the husband took grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table.

For the remainder of his days, grandfather ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk was spilled or the table cloth was soiled.

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Granny Porn in Kenya

Granny Porn in Kenya

After the release of information by the American government which claims that pornography was discovered on Osama Bin Laden's computer, the idea of pornography in Islamic nations shouldn't be strange. In fact, I wrote a post titled "Sex for Sale from Moldova to Dubai," which deals with the topic of human trafficking and sex slaves from former Eastern Bloc countries who end up working across Europe and the Middle East. But even researching these abuses I had never heard of "Granny Porn." The term evoked an image of an elderly frail grandmother with white hair engaged in non-consensual sex. In fact, because of the lead-in I thought that Dr. Drew was going to focus on the issue of the rape of elderly women in nursing homes.

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