Mistreatment and abuse committed against the elderly is a particularly painful subject for any society that considers itself civilized or simply human. Although for years it has been a silenced reality in many cases, awareness of the need to end any type of elder abuse has been growing in recent decades and today any situation of this type is reportable. There is no single excuse for not doing so and ending, through the corresponding complaint, the suffering inflicted on a particularly vulnerable person.
What is considered elder abuse?
The United Nations Organization (@UN_es) clearly indicates: these situations are a violation of rights of older adults and could be defined as a “single or repeated act causing harm or suffering”.
Abuse also includes absence of measures to avoid this damage. This is even more painful because the abuse often occurs in the setting of a relationship based on trust.
Physical damage is the most appreciable, but not the only one, not even the most prevalent worldwide, according to studies conducted by the UN. The psychological abuse is the most frequent and it should not be forgotten that the abandonment, discrimination, not providing adequate health care to an elderly person or taking advantage of their finances by carrying out any abuse of an economic nature are situations of incorrect and harmful treatment.
When to suspect?
Preventing and acting against abuse is everyone’s obligation. Sometimes the situation is obvious (for example, witnessing or suffering a verbal or physical aggression) but in other situations the symptoms of abuse they are not so visible. Among the warning signs, which may be less clear, but should alert us, the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (@seggeriatria) highlights: the repeated carelessness in personal hygiene, repeated accidents, inexplicable weight loss, the progressive isolation that a person shows, the loss of money or the change in their bank accounts …
It should be borne in mind that the victim herself don’t be aware that she is being abused or, if she is, feels incapable of complaining, much less denouncing the person who may be responsible for her care.
Abuse can occur in any setting, from the family environment itself, even in residences or day centers where the older adult attends different activities. Also in their daily activities, when going to a health center or when making purchases.
Where to go if you witness abuse situations or are a victim of them?
First of all, it must be remembered that Security Forces and Bodies are, above all, to ensure the protection of any citizen, and, as stated in the plan «Greater Security» of the Community of Madrid (@CommunityMadrid), they will attend to any complaint that implies that an elderly person has been the victim of a crime, including physical and psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, economic abuse …
Go directly to a police station or a court on duty It will be the quickest way to file a complaint and also the most effective in the face of a situation of abuse that is certain and known and must be corrected immediately.
In addition, there are other options that should always be considered. In the event of a suspicion or certainty, communicate the situation to Social services of your municipality is also an effective measure to initiate the corresponding investigations to clarify the situation.
The Institute for the Elderly and Social Affairs (@Imserso), although they are not directly in charge of managing complaints of abuse, they can advise you on where to go and the steps to follow so that your complaint is effective in the shortest possible time and thus ceases the situation of abuse.
Another possible effective way is to contact one of the associations that, in Spain, work to eradicate the scourge that it supposes any type of violence or violation of the rights of the elderly. Some of them are:
- Association for the Fight against Elder Abuse (SOUL) that focuses its activity exclusively on ending this type of situation.
- Spanish Confederation of Organizations of the Elderly (@CEOMA_ong).
- Association for the Investigation of Elder Abuse (@eimamaltrato).
The Democratic Union of Pensioners (@MayoresUDP) estimates that in Spain only 10% of mistreatment and abuse cases are reported older people and that this situation could affect more than 200,000 people. In the home itself, in hospitals, in residential centers or even by some entities, abuse exists and reporting it is an obligation that we cannot ignore.