|By Diane Pavlat, StrongHearts Native Helpline
Despite the horror of being physically hurt, and having their money or medication stolen, Elders who are abused or neglected often endure the abuse without calling for help. As lifelong caregivers and protectors, many Elders suffer in silence to maintain the well-being of their family and that may include their abuser.
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) – a day to raise awareness and prevent Elder abuse. It’s a day to reflect on what it’s like to become an Elder and the many challenges they are facing such as: losing strength, muscle, and bone mass. Mental clarity can deteriorate and lead to memory loss. These inevitable vulnerabilities leave our Elders at risk of being abused.
According to the National Council on Aging, most abuse occurs in the home and at the hands of family members.
“It’s unacceptable when Elders silently suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of those who should be protecting them,” said CEO Lori Jump, StrongHearts Native Helpline. “Many Elders refuse to report their abusers because they are closely related and want to protect their family, but there are so many more reasons that most people can’t imagine.”
- Love: Despite the abuse or neglect, victims continue to love their abusive partner or relative.
- Fear: Elders may fear retaliation if they report the abuse.
- Embarrassment: Worrying about what others might think or do to make matters worse.
- Lack of Resources: Many Elders live on fixed incomes and may depend on their abuser for shelter.
- Accessibility: Elders may not be able to report if they do not have access to cell phones, internet and/or transportation.
- Polyvictimization and Normalization: For generations, Native people have endured multiple types of abuse at the hands of non-Natives – so much so that abuse seems normal – an everyday part of life.