Elder abuse, like other forms of family violence, is not an isolated event, rather, it is a pattern of behavior that increases in both intensity and frequency over time. What is the most important in your mind for an elderly victim- independence or security from further victimization? Why?
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Independence is relative and variable for an elderly person. There are many everyday activities with which an elderly person is going to need help, the most obvious being traveling; once the ability to drive one’s own vehicle is gone, all other kinds of independence are diminished as well. A calm, realistic co-existence with an aide or series of aides is the best way to mental health, and physical sanity and comfort. Abuse comes from caretakers who have not volunteered or been hired, but rather are put in a caretaking situation by dint of the relation to the elderly person, or of a financial situation that they resent. Motive, therefore, is central to assessing the quality of care being given. The elderly person, in turn, must not assume a master-servant attitude, but rather an attitude of a grateful receiver of attention when needed. The worst kind of abuse, besides out-and-out physical harm, is the withdrawal of real human contact from the caretaker, someone who treats the patient as a burden, a bother, a chore, rather than a person with a personality, a past, and a presence. Those who commit or allow elderly abuse are suffering from the same dysfunction as anyone whose ego dominates their actions, rather than their humanity. The elderly, like the young, often cannot articulate what is happening. There must always be someone who acts as an advocate, a spokesperson, for the person whose physical presence and “value” has weakened with age, and whose worth as an individual has become abstracted. When that person is an occasional visiting relative or friend, problems can arise, but when that person is the primary caregiver, there can be independence and actual sharing of life-experiences.
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