This Requires Nothing from You

I came across a quote in the local paper that caught my eye. It was focused on violence against women. I thought it had an application to elder abuse. Before I get to that quote, here is an itch I’d like to scratch.

Why do we use unique phrases such as domestic violence and elder abuse? We already have the language – it’s illegal, plain and simple. The causes may cluster around the individual circumstances with the prevention, and treatment options may do the same.

Unfortunately, by giving some illegal activities such as assault, fraud and theft in various forms, their own category, we give ourselves our own rationalizations to look the other way. That’s family business and, therefore, none of our business.

Donna F. Johnson wrote in part in the Edmonton Journal about violence against women as follows.

All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander does nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, has asked the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.

The perpetrator requires nothing from us.

Elder abuse often occurs in families, just as child abuse often does. As a society, perhaps because of hard wiring, we believe it is right to intervene to save a child from harm. Many jurisdictions make it illegal to not report, in good faith, instances of child abuse.

Why don’t we take the same thoughtful approach towards protecting the older, vulnerable people who live amongst us?

Imagine for a few moments if the deplorable levels of treatment in long term care units during this pandemic had been happening in daycares to children.

Some would say the analogy doesn’t hold as parents see their children every day and are continually monitoring the situation. They can pull their children from the daycare altogether. We know the news stories of this happening. Exactly, news stories. We had a few news stories about care for the elderly until C-19 (covid) and the Canadian Forces’ subsequent report. Many adults already knew the truth, but it wasn’t newsworthy – yet.

Wouldn’t we expect any adult who was aware, or had reasonable suspicions, of deplorable care conditions, to report to the authorities or the media? I leave the question unanswered as being too obvious.

I encourage my readers to think about what it would take to report a probable elder abuse situation. What would you risk to report an issue? A friendship, perhaps? Being wrong? Guilt if you were right and not reporting?

It is not as easy as things stand currently. But when you equate elder abuse to child abuse, you might feel more confident to risk.

My thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.

Glenn Walmsley