Elder abuse an ‘invisible issue’ — CHR

Published June 15, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

With so many challenges and issues the country is facing, the plight of the elderly often goes unnoticed. This is why the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that elder abuse has become an “invisible issue” in the Philippines.

A group of senior citizens gather during a meeting at a covered court in Quezon City. (Mark Balmores/Manila Bulletin)

As the world observes the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Aging and the Human Rights of Older Persons, said it has become more important than ever for people to care for the elderly because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We cannot stress enough how important this day is especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affects older people. During this unprecedented public health crisis, their health, and worse, their lives, are put at heightened risk,” she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined “elder abuse” as a single or repeated act, or even lack of appropriate action, that occurs within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

“This type of violence constitutes a violation of the human rights of older people. It includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect,” explained Gomez-Dumpit.

Sadly, she said that data on the subject is hardly made available due to the failure or inability of victims to report their cases and limited research involved.

In a study conducted way back in 2004 among urban poor communities, around 40 percent of older people admitted that they personally experienced abuse ranging from physical and verbal abuse, ridicule and discrimination, and negligence.

What’s disheartening is the fact that their abusers are most often children and other family members. Among those who experienced abuse, only two percent reported their cases to the authorities. Around 11 percent turned to their families for support, while 21 percent sought no support or refuge.

Now that the world is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of violence, abuse, and neglect of older persons has increased. Gomez-Dumpit said that local authorities are still unaware of the actual situation of elderly people within homes, institutions, and communities.

“Community quarantine measures forced vulnerable older people to be isolated with potential abusers for a very long period of time,” she said. “The stress, anxiety, and financial problems that the health crisis has brought to quarantined households further add to the risk of abuse.”

In order to help give people better understanding on what elder abuse is, Gomez-Dumpit urged people to visit a flier shared by HelpAge International, an international non-government organization: https://helpage.app.box.com/s/gjimoqkqwonsj6r006m3ltbe66k5yhij. Other useful materials are also available on their website: https://www.helpage.org/.

“We all need to be aware of elder abuse, recognize its early signs, know how to find help, and report them to the proper authorities. We encourage everyone to contact local authorities to report cases of elder abuse in their homes or communities. Exposing any form of abuse may well be the last thing that can save a life,” said Gomez-Dumpit.#