Experts warn people not to stay silent against elder abuse
Mesude Erşan – ISTANBUL
Violence and abuse against the elderly are quite common and informing officials is crucial in the event of an abuse, according to İsmail Tufan, the founding member of Akdeniz University gerontology faculty.
“The inner circles of an elderly who has been abused, neglected and taken advantage of generally know about the situation but prefer to remain silent. Especially those who are halfheartedly helping and supporting the elderly have a high chance of bursting emotionally. The idealized idea of the family, for example, the idea that it is ‘sacred,’ prevents us from seeing the problems,” Tufan told daily Hürriyet.
“We always see the family as a social institution having a foundation of solidarity and tolerance. We do not attribute acts of violence, neglect and abuse to it. Nevertheless, we also see that family is the center for violence,” he said.
The professor stressed that elder abuse is not just an issue within the family but also at nursing and rehabilitation centers as well as health institutions.
“But we are not given the chance to do research in these centers,” he said.
Some elderly tell doctors about what happened to them, yet are afraid that if the abusers find out about being exposed, they will engage in violence again, according to Prof. Işın Baral Kulaksızoğlu, a faculty member in Istanbul University’s psychiatry department.
“We request to meet with some elders one-to-one, with those who seem extremely silent, suffer from malnutrition, are teary-eyed and whose treatments are neglected. It is not easy to learn what the elders, who do not preferably or mandatorily leave the house, are going through,” she said.
“People around them generally do not notify officials, saying that ‘it’s family business.’ We should have awareness and inform necessary institutions about the abuse,” she said.
Kulaksızoğlu also stressed that many elderly are forced to beg on the streets and their pensions and estates are obtrusively taken away.
“Many are employed in heavy-duty jobs despite their advanced age. They are beaten, insulted or mistreated when they are ill,” she said.
Negligence and maltreatment are widespread especially when an elderly requires severe care, such as in the case of dementia, Kulaksızoğlu stressed.
“I’ve had a patient who went into a diabetic coma because her relatives did not get her prescribed drugs,” she said.
Kulaksızoğlu said with the declaration of 2019 as the “Year of the Elderly,” enforcement of regulations and laws concerning the elders have been accelerated.
“I believe some measures to preclude elder abuse will be implemented,” she said.
In a research done in the capital Ankara in 2005 with 275 elderly aged over 65, it was found that 41 percent of these people were subjected to “emotional abuse,” 20 percent were “abused financially” and 10 percent “physically.” And about 30 percent were “neglected,” the findings showed.
According to researches, mostly sons of elderly engage in violence and daughters-in-law follow suit, turning to violence the second most.
“I think there should be a separate legal regulation for all risk groups such as the elderly, women, children and disabled who may be subjected to violence. Even if the types of abuse are common in these risk groups, we see differences in the factors triggering the internal structure of the abuse depending on the structure of the group,” said Şevki Sözen, a forensics faculty member from Istanbul University.
Sözen added that there are many different types of abuse, along with physical, and the most prevalent one is economic abuse.
“The loss of the mental activities of the elderly and their concern for the future make them more prone to being fooled. They can be convinced into handing over their money or estates to others or can be forced into an unwanted marriage,” he said.